The art of Henri Rousseau

A fascinating mixture of primitive idyll and flight from civilization

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) emerged from humble circumstances - reflected in his nickname, "the customs official." An employee in the Paris customs bureau, Rousseau was an autodidact who incrementally worked his way into a position among the artists who were renewing the art world at the turn of the century.

It was a difficult journey - for years the art world laughed at the layman’s flat, icon-like figures, simple landscapes and, in his late phase, exotic jungle scenes. But his "naive" compositions in fact became an emblem that piqued the interest of the avant-garde. Rousseau’s jungle paintings consisted of ornamental variations of plant leaves, among which he set brilliantly colored predators, natives and naked beauties. In so doing, the artist evinced intuitive principles of design and compositions, which subsequent avant-garde artists had to work out for themselves with great effort.

Ultimately winning recognition as an uncompromising modernist, Rousseau inspired comparison with Derain, Cézanne, Matisse and Gauguin. He became acquainted with Apollinaire, Delaunay, Picabia, Brancusi and other important figures; in 1908, Picasso held a legendary banquet in his honour. Today, "Rousseau’s myth," a fascinating mixture of primitive idyll and flight from civilization, of concrete and abstract, holds a secure place in the history of art.
About the Series:
Each book in TASCHEN’s Basic Art Series features:
  • a detailed chronological summary of the life and oeuvre of the artist, covering his or her cultural and historical importance
  • a concise biography
  • approximately 100 colour illustrations with explanatory captions
Rousseau (Basic Art Series)


Softcover with flaps, 7.3 x 9.1 in., 96 pages
$ 9.99

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  • Reviews
"La leyenda del buen salvaje. A cien años de la muerte del artista francés. El pintor autodidacta fue considerado como artista naíf. Su obra fue revalorada por la vanguardia, entre ellos los surrealistas. Muestras como Henri Rousseau, que va todo septiembre en el Museo Guggenheim de Bilbao, es un ejemplo. La vida de Rousseau es un misterio pero se sabe que se ganó la vida como aduanero en París hasta que a los 41 años, según Cornelia Stabenow, historiadora y autora de Henri Rousseau (TASCHEN), decidió ser artista y se le conoció con el sobrenombre del "Aduanero"."
— Agencia Efe, Madrid, Spain
  • See also
Degas (Basic Art Series, TASCHEN 25 Edition)
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Capturing fleeting moments: Degas’s mastery in the depiction of movement
Gauguin (Basic Art Series, TASCHEN 25 Edition)
Hardcover, 9.4 x 11.8 in., 96 pages
$ 14.99

Gauguin’s search for pristine originality and unadulterated nature