Sleep: Henri Rousseau

Henri Rousseau (French, b. 1844-1910) worked as a toll collector, painting as a hobby until retirement. He painted in a flat, primitive style that invited much ridicule during his lifetime; his work was seen as unserious. The younger Pablo Picasso was one of the first people to recognize Rousseau's talent, when he found one his canvases on sale as a surface to be painted over, and then went to meet him.

Today even small children recognize the beauty and narrative power of his dream-like images:

The Sleeping Gypsy oil on canvas 51"x 6' 7" 1897

 Here is Rousseau's description of this painting:
"A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her (a vase with drinking water), overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic."


  1. Thanks for sharing this information. I knew nothing about Rousseau.

  2. I have always loved this painting--my husband, on the other hand, found it very frightening when he was a child. To me the lion just looked like a big, friendly cat. I've often wondered if Rousseau had cats that he used as models for his lions in several paintings.


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