L'Enfant à la poupée

Henri Rousseau
L'Enfant à la poupée
Vers 1892
huile sur toile
H. 67 ; L. 52 cm avec cadre H. 88 ; L. 72,5 ; P. 8,5 cm
3840
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée de l'Orangerie) / DR
Henri Rousseau (1844 - 1910)

The child looking straight at you comes over as a disturbing, hypnotic figure. Her features have nothing childlike about them. Her body looks gigantic and disproportionate. Her legs, which disappear rather strangely into the grass, are enormous in relation to her arms, particularly her right arm, which is holding a popular cardboard doll. The body is represented in "Egyptian style" with the upper part of the body seen face on and the legs seen from the side. It is virtually two-dimensional, and the white dots on the little girl’s red dress accentuate the flatness of the figure, which seems to have been literally stuck on to the background.
The landscape is severely reduced: an almost uniformly blue sky and a meadow dotted with flowers resembling a medieval tapestry. However Rousseau creates a slight impression of perspective by darkening the grass in the distance and reducing the size of the daisies. The shading under the child’s thighs recalls an illuminated manuscript.
Rousseau rediscovered the aesthetic of the French and Italian "primitives" in an era that was fascinated by Primitivism in all genres. It was an aspect of his art that fascinated his contemporaries and which prompted André Lhote to write: "In the Middle Ages, he would have delighted the crowd...", and Arsène Alexandre to call him "the Paolo Ucello of our century."