Rousseau, Henri Julien Felix

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Rousseau, Henri Julien Felix


(called Le Douanier). Born May 20, 1844, in Laval, Mayenne Department; died Sept. 2, 1910, in Paris. French self-taught painter.

Rousseau worked as a customs inspector (douanier) in Paris. He took up painting in 1880, and beginning in 1886 his work was exhibited regularly at the Salon des Indépendants. Rousseau’s art was admired by the postimpressionists, and, through their help, the artist became well known.

Naïve and spontaneous, Rousseau’s paintings are stylized in a “childlike” way yet, at the same time, literal in the treatment of detail. There is a flatness and clarity of form, and the palette is bright and varied. His works include fantastic landscapes inspired by exotic foreign lands, views of Parisian suburbs, genre scenes, portraits, and self-portraits.

Rousseau’s work encouraged recognition of the artistic merits of primitivism (that is, nave art). It also promoted the use of primitivism’s means of expression by new currents in 20th-century art.


Bihalji-Merin, L., and O. Bihalji-Merin. Leben und Werk des Malers Henri Rousseau. Dresden [1971].