An incident at the Salon d’Automne 1907

Henri Rousseau Ridiculed

An incident at the Salon d’Automne 1907

Henri Rousseau Ridiculed

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) was a self-taught French artist known for his dreamlike, tropical landscapes and jungle scenes. Despite never having visited the tropics, he created highly detailed, exotic paintings that captured the imagination of the public and fellow artists alike. Initially ridiculed by the art establishment, Rousseau’s unique style eventually gained recognition, and he is now regarded as a pioneer of modern art.

Henri Rousseau

The Salon d’Automne in Paris was one of the most prestigious art exhibitions in France. But the exhibition of 1907 proved to be a turning point in the history of modern art. Many of the artists who exhibited there were experimenting with new styles and techniques that challenged the traditional norms of art. The most famous example was the work of the Fauvist painters, Henri Matisse and Andre Derain. They used bold, vivid colours and simplified forms to create intense, emotional expressions of the natural world.

Henri Rousseau had also submitted his painting “The Snake Charmer” to the Salon d’Automne that year. However, when the painting was displayed, it was placed in a corner behind a partition, as if it were being hidden from view. Rousseau sat forlornly beside his work hidden from view.

For more information and to see the ‘Snake Charmer’ see the short video below.

Prejudice in the Art World

The reason for this treatment of Rousseau’s painting is not entirely clear, but it is widely believed to be due to the prejudices of the art establishment of the time. Rousseau was a self-taught artist who had never received any formal training. His style was considered primitive and unsophisticated by many critics. They saw his work as being outside the mainstream of contemporary art, and therefore not deserving of a prominent place in the exhibition.

Despite the unfavourable placement of his painting, Rousseau remained committed to his art and continued to create paintings in his unique style. He drew inspiration from his own imagination and from his experiences of the world around him. His work often depicted exotic animals and plants in lush, tropical settings. These images were often copied from pictures of zoo animals from books. His paintings were highly detailed and meticulously rendered, with a sense of depth and texture that drew the viewer into his imaginary world.

Henri Rousseau’s Reputation Grows

Rousseau’s slowly grew over time, and he became a celebrated figure in the art world. His influence can be seen in the work of many artists who came after him, including the Surrealists, who were drawn to his dreamlike, otherworldly landscapes. Today, he is recognized as one of the most important artists of the modern era, and his work has been exhibited in major museums around the world. The incident with “The Snake Charmer” serves as a reminder of the challenges that many artists have faced in gaining recognition for their work, and the importance of breaking down barriers and prejudices in the art world.

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“He who works with his hands is a labourer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman.
He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

Saint Francis of Assisi