25 de março de 2012

Henri Rousseau - Tiger in a Tropical Storm

Tiger in a Tropical Storm - 1891
National Gallery - London - U.K.

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) was born in Laval, in the Loire Valley, and raised within fairly impoverished circumstances. He spent four years in the army before moving to Paris, in 1868, and working as a clerk in a law office. Rousseau did not turn to art until late in his life: his first known work, “Landscape with a Watermill” is dated 1879, when he was 35, and he did not launch his public artistic career until 1885, at his 41.

The native and primitive style of  work is instantly recognizable, yet in his time and for some years, after his death, the artist's works were repeatedly mocked, desvalued and misunderstood, being several times is work called “childish” and naive.
But among his critics Félix Vallotton, a young Swiss painter who was later to be an important figure in the development of the modern woodcut, said:

"His tiger surprising its prey is a 'must-see'; it's the alpha and omega of painting and so disconcerting that, before so much competency and childish naïveté, the most deeply rooted convictions are held up and questioned".
“Tiger in a Tropical Storm" (or Surprised!) is the first of the series of jungle scenes that Rousseau painted, and was exhibited at the Salon des Independants, in 1891 after being rejected by his contemporary critics.

It shows a tiger, illuminated by a flash of lightning, preparing to pounce on its prey in the midst of a raging gale. The artist claimed that he had encountered such exotic jungle scenes while serving as a regimental bandsman in Mexico, in 1860., but in fact, he had never left France. It is more likely that his inspiration came from the botanical gardens in Paris including the Jardin des Plants.
On the painting the tiger's prey is beyond the edge of the canvas, so it is left to the viewer's imagination what the outcome will be, although Rousseau's originally titled the painting "Surprised!" it suggests the tiger has the upper hand upon the situation. Rousseau later stated that:
"The tiger was about to pounce on a group of explorers". 
Despite their apparent simplicity, Rousseau's jungle paintings were built up meticulously in layers, using a large number of green shades to capture the lush exuberance of the jungle. He also devised his own method for depicting the lashing rain by trailing strands of silver paint diagonally across the canvas, a technique inspired by the satin-like finishes of the paintings of William-Adolphe Bouguereauwhich added unusual three-dimensional effects.
Though derided by critics of the period, Rousseau’s work was much admired by some of his fellow artists, including Matisse, Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec and Robert Delaunay and undoubtedly one of the names that made a difference and created a new era on the history of paintings.
Nothing would ever be the same in art, after "Les Independants", of the 19 century.

Source: Tamsin Pickeral, Wikipedia

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