Born: 21 May 1844; Laval, Mayenne, France
Died: 02 September 1910; Paris, France
Active Years: 1875 - 1910
Art Movement: Naïve Art (Primitivism)
As a self-taught painter, Henri Rousseau was completely untrained in any established art techniques. He is best known for his naïve, or primitive, childlike jungle scenes. He was good at painting and music as a child, but spent most of his life in the profession of a customs officer at the outskirts of town. Because of this, he was also referred to as Le Douarneir, or the “Customs Officer.” He started painting seriously at the age of forty and by the time he was 49 he retired from his job in order to paint full time.
Although the painting establishment laughed and ridiculed his artistic style, he was highly regarded by artists who were outside the establishment, such as Picasso, Jean Hugo, Leger, Beckman, and later, painters of the Surrealist style. He was unaware that he was considered untrained by established painters, and believed himself to be a great realist painter. As such, he regarded himself very highly, and in his opinion, Picasso and he were the only two great living artists.