Magazine article Arts & Activities

A&A Art Print: Respond and Connect: Henri Rousseau. Surprised! (Also Known as Tiger in a Tropical Storm), 1891

Magazine article Arts & Activities

A&A Art Print: Respond and Connect: Henri Rousseau. Surprised! (Also Known as Tiger in a Tropical Storm), 1891

Article excerpt

"When I step into the hothouses and see the plants from exotic lands, it seems to me that I am in a dream"

Henri Rousseau

MAIN VISUAL ART CONCEPTS: Line * Pattern * Movement * Color

PAINTING TECHNIQUE: Rousseau came up with his own method of depicting rain. He painted thin, nearly transparent, light-colored diagonal lines across his entire canvas.

BOTANY: According to Rebecca Alexander, the "Plant Answer Librarian" at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library, University of Washington Botanic Gardens, Rousseau's plants in Surprised! are not specific enough to be identified or classified. She cites one exception: "the tassels over the back end of the tiger resemble Miscanthus, but there's a lot of artistic license going on here! It's tropical-ish. "

ECONOMY: When he was 24 years old, Rousseau began to work for the French government collecting tolls from farmers as they traveled to markets to sell their goods. He kept this job for 25 years, which allowed him time to paint. His friends nicknamed him "Le Douanier" (pronounced Luh DWA-nay), meaning "The Customs Inspector."

LANGUAGE ARTS: Be sure to read the poem, "The Tyger," by English poet William Blake (1757-1827).

BOTANY AND BIOLOGY: Rousseau never visited an actual jungle; he invented all his jungle scenes. He visited botanical gardens to look closely at growing plants and went to natural history museums to study stuffed animals. Rousseau also trained himself by copying art in museums, and some say he derived his tiger from works by Eugene Delacroix.

IDENTIFYING STYLE--PRIMITIVISM AND ORIENTALISM: Rousseau is mostly thought of as a "primitive" (self-taught) painter. His tiger has some similarities to Chinese and Japanese painted and carved tigers. Interestingly, some of Eugene Delacroix's works are also thought to be examples of "Orientalist" Western art. …

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