by Henri Rousseau
“The Repast of the Lion” by Henri Rousseau depicts a feeding lion in a lush and exotic jungle setting. This painting expands upon Rousseau’s other artworks depicting surprised animals in jungle scenes. The foliage represented in the art was inspired by the artist’s study of Paris’ botanical gardens and the many jungle pictures he collected. Rousseau also took inspiration and adapted the wild beasts from popular ethnographic journals and illustrated children’s books.
The critics derided Henri Rousseau’s work during his lifetime and after his death, but he won a following and support among his contemporaries: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Paul Klee who were admirers of his work.
Henri Rousseau was self-taught and developed a style that lacked traditional training, with its absence of strict proportions, one-point perspective, and with the use of sharp, often unnatural colours. The result was art pieces that were imbued with a sense of mystery and eccentricity.
Rousseau started painting seriously in his early forties, and by age 49 he retired from his job to work on his art full-time. His primary employment before he retired was as the duty customs officer and tax collector. Many critics who ridiculed his work disparaged Rousseau’s style; however, he always aspired, in vain, to common acceptance. Many observers commented that he painted like a child, but the work shows sophistication with his unique style and technique. Following his funeral the following epitaph was written by his friends and put on his tombstone:
We salute you, Gentle Rousseau, you can hear us.
Let our luggage pass duty-free through the gates of heaven.
We will bring you brushes paints and canvas.
That you may spend your sacred leisure in the
light and Truth of Painting.
As you once did my portrait facing the stars, lion and the gypsy.
Ridiculed during his lifetime by critics, he came to be recognised as a self-taught genius whose work exerted a significant influence on several generations of avant-garde artists. Today, Henri Rousseau’s paintings are highly valued and prominent in the world’s leading art museums.
Henri Rousseau: Did you know?
- Rousseau was ridiculed during his lifetime by art critics.
- He was self-taught and yet he had a significant influence on many avant-garde artists.
- Various artists have parodied his iconic paintings.
- Animals and the jungle both inspired Rousseau.
- His sources of imagination were not extensive travels; it was illustrated books and visits to the Zoo and Botanical Gardens in Paris.
- After his retirement in 1893, Rousseau supplemented his small pension with part-time jobs such as playing the violin in the streets.
- Ridiculed during his lifetime by critics, he influenced many artists.
- What inspires you?
- When is it too late to develop a new passion?
- Is there room today for self-taught artists to make a difference?
- Is it ever too late to start a new passion?
The Repast of the Lion
- Title: The Repast of the Lion
- Artist: Henri Rousseau
- Date: 1907
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: 44 3/4 x 63 in. (113.7 x 160 cm)
- Museum: Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET
- Name: Henri Julien Félix Rousseau
- Born: 1844 – Laval, Mayenne, France
- Died: 1910 (aged 66) – Paris, France
- Nationality: French
- Movement: Post-Impressionism, Naïve art, Primitivism
- Notable works:
Henri Rousseau Quotes
“Beauty is the promise of happiness ”
“The universe was born restless and has never since been still.”
“It is often said that my heart is too open for my own good.”
“Excuse my scribbling, it is late, and I have a poor candle. ”
“I have always believed that good is only beauty put into practice.”
“The landscapist lives in silence.”
“Cities are the sinks of the human race.”
“I cannot now change my style, which I acquired, as you can imagine, by dint of labour.”
“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness. ”
“The happiest is the person who suffers the least pain; most miserable the ones who enjoy the least pleasure ”
Explore the MET’s European Paintings Collection
- “Pygmalion and Galatea” by Jean-Léon
- “Saint Jerome as Scholar” by El Greco
- “Portrait of Juan de Pareja” by Diego Velázquez
- “Camille Monet on a Garden Bench” by Claude Monet
- “View of Toledo” by El Greco
- “The Musicians” by Caravaggio
- “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques-Louis David
- “The Harvesters” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
- “Young Woman Drawing” by Marie-Denise Villers
- “The Grand Canal, Venice” by J. M. W. Turner
- “The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog)” by Claude Monet
- “Madame Cézanne in a Red Dress” by Paul Cézanne
- “The Fortune Teller” by Georges de La Tour
- “The Allegory of Faith” by Johannes Vermeer
- “Garden at Sainte-Adresse” by Claude Monet
- “Wheat Field with Cypresses” by Vincent van Gogh
- “The Repast of the Lion” by Henri Rousseau
“Beauty is the promise of happiness.”
– Henri Rousseau
Photo Credits: 1) Metropolitan Museum of Art [Public domain]