BeWILDered

You just have to wonder: which part in this painting is responsible for the lions’ bewildered expressions? Is it the shock of the nude? The shrill tone of the flute? Am I, the spectator, that scary?

The Dream, 1910 || Henri Rousseau || Oil on canvas

“Entirely self-taught, Henri Rousseau worked a day job as a customs inspector until, around 1885, he retired on a tiny pension to pursue a career as an artist. Without leaving his native France, he made numerous paintings of fantastical jungle landscapes, like the one that fills The Dream.

Living in Paris, he had ready access to images of faraway people and places through popular literature, world expositions, museums, and the Paris Zoo. His visits to the city’s natural history museum and to Jardin des plantes (a combined zoo and botanical garden) inspired the lush jungle, wild animals, and mysterious horn player featured in The Dream. “When I am in these hothouses and see the strange plants from exotic lands, it seems to me that I am entering a dream,” he once said.

The nude woman reclining on a sofa seems to have been lifted from a Paris living room and grafted into this moonlit jungle scene. Her incongruous presence heightens its dreamlike quality and suggests that perhaps the jungle is a projection of her mind, much as it is a projection of Rousseau’s imagination.” [source: MoMA]

June 16th, 2019