100 Days of Art History Jinjins


Woman Walking in An Exotic Forest

I think this painting has a lot of charm. It's lovingly painted but childish. That was the whole vibe for Henri Rousseau, who painted in the post-Impressionist era and was known as a naive artist. Pablo Picasso was a fan and threw a banquet in his honor. Rousseau was actually a full-time tax collector, who painted these whimsical scenes when he had time. He was largely self-taught. The post-impressionists ate this up. They were looking for a new kind of art, different from the highly mannered academic studio art tradition, that was closer to what they thought of as nature.

Rousseau loved painting jungle scenes but had no idea what real jungles looked like. His experience of nature was botanical gardens and urban parks. He would just make up whatever he wanted. That comes through in this painting with the lady dwarfed by what look like gigantic daisies, which are many times larger than the already gigantic oranges above her head. It's full of whimsy--more imagination than you'd expect from a tax collector.

I saw the original of this painting in the Barnes Foundation in Phildelphia, a very fun museum. It was surrounded by other impressionist and post-impressionist works, plus a smattering of decorative metal objects like horse bits and door hinges. I totally recommend a visit.

Reference image is from the The Barnes Foundation, where this painting now hangs.

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