When I go out into the countryside and see the sun and the green and everything flowering, I say to myself Yes indeed, all that belongs to me!.
Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see.
Beauty is the promise of happiness.
It is often said that my heart is too open for my own good.
I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labour.
via Henri Rousseau – ArtinthePicture.com.
Rousseau, Henri, called ‘le Douanier’ (1844 – 1910), was an amateur or ‘Sunday’ painter with a direct, simple and hauntingly naive vision who painted some unusually large and complicated pictures of elaborately fanciful and pituresquely exotic subjects in a matter-of-factly pedestrian technique and strong colour. He served as a Regimental bandsman – according to his own account, in Mexico in 1861-7, which provided him with his fantastic settings – and as a Sergeant in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1. He entered the Paris municipal Customs service (hence ‘le Douanier’), and began painting about 1880, exhibiting at the Independants from 1886. A dinner in his honour was given in Picasso’s studio in 1908, and this gesture has played its part in the transmogrification of ‘le Douanier’ into a symbol of sophisticated interest in the pseudo – Primitive and in the opening of the floodgates of both psychological and the sentimental school of writers on art. He seems to have combined a certain peasant shrewdness and bland self-esteem with gullible simplemindedness; he kept a school where he taught elocution, music, and painting, wrote two plays, got himself involved, though guiltlessly, in a trial for fraud, and finally died, it is said, as a result of a disappointment in love in pursuit of a third wife.
There are works in London (Tate, Courtauld Inst.), New York (M of MA), Paris (Louvre), Zurich, and elsewhere.
Taken from ‘Dictionary of Art & Artists’, by Peter and Linda Murray, 1959