Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris: Sources and inspiration

Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris exhibition - Post card of the Jardin d'Hiver ('Winter Garden') at the Jardin des Plantes

Postcard of the Jardin d'Hiver ('Winter Garden') at the Jardin des Plantes

Benoît Lardiéres, Paris. Karin Maucotel

Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris exhibition - Diorama of a lion attacking an antelope

Diorama of a lion attacking an antelope

Collection Museum National Histoire Naturelle.
Photo from exhibition at Tate Modern © Tate

Henri Rousseau - Tropical Forest with Monkeys 1910

Henri Rousseau
Tropical Forest with Monkeys
1910

National Gallery of Art, Washington

Although stories abounded about Rousseau’s supposed military adventures in the jungles of Mexico, he never actually left France. Instead, the exotic scenes he depicted were largely based on the foliage and animals he saw on his regular pilgrimages to the Paris Natural History Museum, and to the botanical gardens and zoo, known as the Jardin des Plantes, that surrounded it. Rousseau was also an eager scavenger of images from a variety of printed sources, which he adapted and transformed in his paintings. Perhaps his most important source was an album entitled Bêtes Sauvages (‘Wild Beasts’), which included around 200 photographs of animals in captivity, many of them in the Jardin des Plantes.