Henri Rousseau aka “Le Douanier” (The Customs Officer)

Henri Rousseau dit Le Douanier
© Photo RMN: Droits réservés © RMN-Grand Palais / DR
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Henri Rousseau was born in Laval in the west of France. He joined the army and then worked as a toll collector for the city of Paris, whence his nickname “Douanier”. He started to paint in his free time and in 1885 began to exhibit his work regularly at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, where such painters as Camille Pissarro and Odilon Redon marvelled at the novelty of his vision.
In 1893, he devoted himself full-time to his art. Encouraged and supported by the avant-garde’s poets and artists, who saw him as one of the fathers of modernity in painting, he presented three works at the 1905 Autumn Salon, at the time the so-called “fauve” painters were causing such a scandal. Critics were also often laudatory and the apotheosis of his artistic life was the “banquet” that Picasso and his friends held in his honor in November 1908 at the Bateau-Lavoir, the famous artists’ commune in Montmartre.
Basing his paintings on postcards and photographs cut out from newspapers, and a tireless visitor to the Louvre Museum’s galleries, Rousseau saw himself as a “realist” painter. Working with “dogged determination”, he produced portraits, urban landscapes and those large paintings of jungles that have become so famous.
Paul Guillaume must certainly have been introduced to Douanier Rousseau’s canvases by his friend, the poet and art critic Guillaum Apollinaire (1880-1918). On the latter’s advice, he set about acquiring as many of Rousseau’s paintings as possible and succeeded in purchasing some of his greatest masterpieces, including La Carriole du père Junier (Father Junier’s Carriole – 1908) and La Noce (The Wedding Party – circa 1905).

View Henri Rousseau's works