Tate Modern Level 4 West
3 November 2005 – 5 February 2006
From November Tate Modern will present the most impressive selection of exotic jungle paintings by the French painter Henri Rousseau ever assembled, almost eight decades after his last exhibition in London. The jungle paintings are among the best-known and most frequently reproduced works of art in the world, and yet they remain startlingly fresh and compelling. The exhibition is sponsored by Aviva plc.
Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris will include masterpieces from Moscow, Prague, Tokyo and many other European and American cities. An extensive series of major canvases made between 1905 and 1910 such as the majestic The Hungry Lion Throws itself on the Antelope 1905, Horse Attacked by a Jaguar 1910, and The Dream 1910 will be shown, as well as Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!) 1891, Rousseau’s first jungle painting. To contrast with the menace and savagery of the combat works, paintings of monkeys in jungle settings such as Tropical Forest with Monkeys, 1910 and The Merry Jesters, 1906, will provide an element of humour and caprice.
The exhibition will situate these beautiful yet enigmatic jungle paintings in the context of Rousseau’s other works. Often described as the quintessentially naïve artist, Rousseau in fact aspired to the Academy and he explored all the major and minor genres. The exhibition includes an astonishing group of allegorical paintings as well as landscapes of Paris and its surroundings, and a group of extraordinary portraits, notably his famous Myself: Portrait Landscape 1890. As in the jungle scenes, these paintings demonstrate a strange and captivating fusion of observation and fantasy, of the ordinary and the extraordinary combined with his highly original painting style. An important part of the exhibition will also be a comprehensive survey of Rousseau’s source materials. Items ranging from illustrated magazines and post cards to an original stuffed animal diorama from the Jardin des Plantes will provide a unique insight into Rousseau’s working method as well as into the Paris of his time.
Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) is among the greatest self-taught painters. Born in Laval, North West France Rousseau moved to Paris in 1870 and remained there for the rest of his life. He came late to painting, serving as a custom’s official in Paris from 1871 (hence the nickname ‘Le Douanier’) until 1893 when he retired to paint full time. Surviving on a tiny pension, supplemented by teaching and the occasional sale of a painting, Rousseau suffered years of derision as critics lambasted his remarkably original paintings at the Salon des Independents, where he showed his work annually from 1886.
Rousseau’s first jungle painting was made in 1891 but from 1904-5 the subject drew his extended attention, absorbing much of his creative energy until his death in 1910. During the final years of his life his originality was recognized by a small circle of avant-garde painters, writers and their associates including Picasso and the poet Apollinaire. Nevertheless Rousseau died impoverished in 1910, just as the critical tide had began to turn. In 1911 the Salon des Indépendants celebrated his achievements with an exhibition of over forty paintings.
Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris is curated by Frances Morris, Tate Curator, and Christopher Green, Professor at the Courtauld Institute, in collaboration with Claire Frèches, Curator, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. The exhibition will travel to Grand Palais, Paris (13 March to 19 June 2006) and to National Gallery of Art, Washington (16 July to 15 October 2006). It will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue. This is Aviva’s third collaboration with Tate and we are delighted to be continuing our relationship. Aviva plc is the world’s fifth largest insurance group and the biggest in the UK under the Norwich Union brand. Aviva is one of the leading providers of life and pensions products to Europe and has substantial businesses elsewhere around the world, serving 30 million customers worldwide.