Henri Rousseau is best known for his vivid jungle paintings – lions and tigers creeping through fantasy landscapes of dense forest growth, punctuated by red and yellow fruits and flowers and deep-orange suns. Yet, the toll-collector-cum-artist was never truly appreciated for his avant-garde style. His contemporaries did not respect him and his ‘simplistic’ self-taught way of painting went largely unrecognised during his lifetime. Picasso once threw his amateur-painter friend a banquet, claiming it to be just a joke. Rousseau, after all, was a customs officer (le Douanier ) – a ‘primitive’ that had never formally studied painting, nor even been to a tropical colony (all his jungles were based on Jardin des Plantes).
Flash forward to 2015 and the wildly influential Rousseau is enjoying an extended exhibition at the Doge’s Palace in Venice. The ‘Archaic Candour’ exhibition will run in Venice until September 6, 2015, featuring Rousseau’s jungle paintings, his still lifes and other works from between 1884 and 1910 by artists such as Cézanne and Gauguin, Redon and Seurat, Frida Kahlo, Kandinsky Picasso, and more. After its presentation in Venice, the exhibition will move to Musée d’Orsay, Paris, where you can enjoy it until July 17, 2016.