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Music and Art Discovery Presentation 3B Rousseau’s “Sleeping Gypsy” Materials: Large framed; four smaller laminated prints, including self portrait, in the Binder; parent notes on artist at the end of this document. Hi. My name is Mr./Mrs. __________________ and I am ________________’s mom/dad. I am here today to talk about a painter from France named Henri Rousseau. Have you ever heard of Henri Rousseau? Do you know about any of his paintings? Would you be interested in learning about a man who liked to paint wild animals and jungles? I am going to tell you a little bit about him to help you understand why he painted the things he did and then we will look at some of his art. Henri was born in 1844 to a very poor family in a small town in France. Unlike some other famous painters you will learn about, he never had a painting lesson in his life. He joined the Army when he was young, got married and became a customs toll collector at a city gate in Paris. Probably because of this job, he got a permit to paint copies of pictures on display at the Louvre. Have you ever heard of or visited the Louvre in France? Do you know of any place closer where you can go to see famous artwork on display? Art Institute in downtown Chicago. Back to Henri: He retired from his job as a toll collector when he turned 40 and decided to become a full time artist. He taught music and art to earn money while he was painting. This is a self portrait he created around that time. Hold up self portrait. He continued to paint even though the general public wasn’t particularly fond of his paintings. His style was called Naïve Art because it looked very simple and childish and used of a lot of patterns. Some up and coming painters at that time, however, were intrigued by his work. Let’s take a look at one of his most famous paintings from 1897: Hold up “The Sleeping Gypsy”. He was 53 when he painted this and it has become one of the most recognized paintings of modern times. What do you think is going on in this picture? Where do you think this person and the lion are? What do you think the lion is doing? Who might the person be? How can you tell? What do you think will happen next? These are some of the things I learned while researching this painting: Henri Rousseau had a vivid imagination and never saw the desert or a real lion outside of the zoo. In fact, he never left France. Although people made fun of him for painting this style at the time, the hard lines and flat perspective were copied by those who later painted in the “cubism style” such as Pablo Picasso. As a matter of fact after buying one of Rousseau’s works that was being sold as a canvas to paint over, the two became friends and Picasso eventually owned 5 of Rousseau’s paintings. Rousseau tried unsuccessfully to sell this painting to the mayor of his home town. Instead it was purchased by a Parisian charcoal merchant who had it in his private collection until 1924. It was purchased by Mrs. Simon Guggenheim in 1939 who gave it to the New York Museum of Modern Art. This painting has served as inspiration for poetry and music and has been altered by various artists often with the lion replaced by a dog or other animal. In the Simpsons episode, “Mom and Pop Art”, Homer dreams of waking up in the painting with the lion licking his head. He got the nickname Le Douanier (the customs officer) from his job as a toll collector. This is a name still used to refer to Rousseau today. Hold up photo of Rousseau sitting from 1902. He also painted a very different landscape from the desert. Some of his best known paintings are of jungles. Hold up Virgin Jungle. What do you see in this painting? Can you spot some of the similar characteristics of the painting style? He never went to a jungle, but he was intrigued by stories told by some of the men he served with in the Army who had been to the subtropics of Mexico. He once said when he entered a famous garden in Paris, Jardin des Plantes, “When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream.” He painted in layers starting with a sky in the background and ending with animals or people in the foreground. When he painted Jungle scenes, he could use over 50 varieties of green. Although inspired by real plants, his foliage in paintings is adapted to his artistic needs and is often not recognizable as being made up of particular plants. He painted one color at a time, doing all of that color, and then moved on to another color. His paintings never made him much money when he was alive. Rousseau was only 66 when he died. Despite what anyone else thought of his work, he was convinced that he deserved to be called an artist. Time has proven that he was right because he is now considered a great artist. Activity choices: Draw the scene of what happened next for the Sleeping Gypsy. Write a short story about what might be happening in the Virgin Jungle. Notes on the Artist for Parents: Henri Julien Félix Rousseau was born in Laval France on May 21, 1844 . He was the son a tinsmith and hardware dealer. He came from a poor family and never had a painting lesson in his life. He started painting by copying pictures in the Louvre. He had a short career in the army and later married. He spent most of his early years he was a customs toll collector. At age 40, he retired to become a full time artist. He gave music and art lessons for an income. His paintings were not liked until later in his life. Although he wasn’t popular at first, he maintained a naïve confidence, he believed in himself, believed he was as good as other artist of the day. The naiveté was part of the freshness of his style. This childlike style never changed throughout his career. Although his paintings were appreciated only late in his life, it was never for money. He was actually friends with Pablo Picasso who owned 5 of Rousseau’s painting. He died of a blood infection on September 2, 1910. Henri was a French Post-Impressionist painter in the Naive or Primitive manner. Naïve art is characterized by a childlike simplicity. It is a gross oversimplification to assume that Naïve art is created by people with little or no formal art training. The characteristics of naïve art are an awkward relationship to the formal qualities of painting. Difficulties with drawing and perspective that result in a charmingly awkward and often refreshing vision, strong use of pattern, unrefined color, and simplicity rather than subtlety are all supposed markers of naïve art. It has, however, become a popular and recognizable style. Ridiculed during his life, he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality. This oil painting done in 1897 oil painting is a fantastical depiction of a lion musing over a sleeping woman on a moonlit night is one of the most recognizable artworks of modern times. Rousseau first exhibited the painting at the 13th Salon des Indépendants, and tried unsuccessfully to sell it to the mayor of his hometown, Laval. Instead it entered the private collection of a Parisian charcoal merchant where it remained until 1924. In 1939 it was brought by Mrs. Simon Guggenheim who gave it to the New York Museum of Modern Art. The painting has served as inspiration for poetry and music, and has been altered and parodied by various artists often with the lion replaced by a dog or other animal. In the Simpsons episode "Mom and Pop Art" Homer dreams of waking up in the artwork with the lion licking his head. He wrote “anyone, whose thoughts aspire to beauty and good, should be permitted to create in his own way, in total freedom.
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