Henri Rousseau: The Football Players (1908); Guggenheim Museum, New York

In my grandparents’ house used to hang a reproduction of this work by Henri Rousseau. As a child, I was completely fascinated by the painting and I could look at it for hours. I was touched by the ineffable combination of colors and shapes on the canvas, rather than the actual scene. Of course, I marveled at the footballer’s strange sport clothing and their extraordinary mustaches, but above all there was a magical atmosphere in the painting that wouldn’t let go of me. More than 35 years later, I'm still enchanted.
Rousseau (1844-1910) is commonly classified as a Naïve painter, because of his uncomplicated, 'childish' style. He was a late bloomer and only started to paint at the age of forty. He never had any formal education in the arts and earned his money as a toll collector, a profession that won him the nickname ‘Le Douanier’. Rousseau’s subjects vary widely, but he is best known for his depictions of jungle scenes, which is remarkable given the fact that he never set foot outside his native France.
Despite the fact that his work was rejected and ridiculed by most critics, Rousseau continued to believe in his own qualities and tried to exhibit as much as possible. And not entirely fruitless: after he received his first positive review in 1891 from the painter Felix Valloton, the appreciation of his work began to increase, albeit mainly from avant-garde artists like Picasso, Signac, Brancusi, and Apollinaire. Today, his ‘naïve’ art is considered to have had a huge influence on the emergence of modernism and as an indispensable source of inspiration for important innovators such as Beckmann, Kandinsky and Léger.
(text: Maarten Levendig)


Sw said…
This comment has been removed by the author.