The painting style of Henri Rousseau is known as l'art naïf. This means 'naïve art' or
'childlike art.' His paintings look as if children have created them.
The artist was born on 21 May 1844 in a town called Laval, near Paris. His father was a plumber. Henri Rousseau worked as a tax collector 'douanier' and that is why in French he is known as Le Douanier Rousseau.
He was a self-trained artist. His style was new and unique. Many people criticised this style but the great Spanish artist Pablo Picasso loved it and became his friend.
Henri Rousseau painted many jungle scenes, depicting wild animals even though he had never travelled abroad. His ideas came from visiting the botanic gardens of Paris (Le Jardin des Plantes) and a book called Bêtes Sauvages (Wild Animals).
He was the first artist to include the Eiffel Tower in a painting. Can you see it hidden behind the ship's mast in the painting below? Do you notice how the clouds have a similar shape to his beret? Can you see a hot air balloon amidst the clouds? The character standing in the centre of the painting is the artist himself! It is a self-portrait. It is certainly a most interesting self-portrait!
Below, you can see another painting by Rousseau of the Eiffel Tower.
Henri Rousseau was married twice. During his first marriage he had six children but only one of them survived into adulthood.
The names of his wives - Clémence et Joséphine - were engraved on his paint palette.
Henri Rousseau died on 2 September in 1910 in Paris.
Henri Rousseau once said:
- Rien ne me rend plus heureux que de sortir dans la campagne et de peindre ce que je vois.
"Nothing makes me happier than going out into the countryside and painting what I see."