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The Dream

The Dream by Henri Rousseau
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Artist: Henri Rousseau    Image Code: V03790

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  • Artist: Henri Rousseau

    Henri Rousseau (May 21, 1844-September 2, 1910), a self-taught painter, was part of the French Post-Impressionist movement. Inspired by his everyday surroundings, he was often ridiculed by his contemporaries, but is now accepted as a singular talent. Rousseau is most well-known for his exotic jungle scenes, despite the fact that he never left his home country of France. He was heavily influenced by painters such as Cezanne and Gauguin, who were leading the way in the Primitivist movement. Born in Laval in the Loire Valley, Rousseau worked as a toll collector for most of his life, earning him the nickname “Le Douanier” (meaning, “the customs officer”) from his contemporaries. Though he was otherwise employed, Rousseau’s job allowed him to pursue his passion for painting in his off-hours, eventually allowing him to retire at age 49 to paint full-time. Later in life, Rousseau earned the admiration of fellow artists such as Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinksy, and has since been incorporated in the fin-de-siècle artistic canon. 

    View all of Henri Rousseau's work.

  • Artwork Details

    Widely accepted as Henri Rousseau's masterpiece, The Dream was painted in 1910, the same year as the artist's untimely death. Combining the aspects of painting that were known to be typical of Rousseau's style of primitivist jungle landscapes, wildlife and wild animals, and above all, a slightly surreal twist (in this case the inexplicable appearance of a nude woman on a couch in the middle of the jungle), it is easily his most intriguing composition. It was his last completed piece, and after a lifetime of criticism and ridicule, when Rousseau exhibited The Dream at the Salon des Independants, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire exclaimed, "This picture radiates beauty, that is indisputable. I believe nobody will laugh this year." It was, in fact, immediately successful, selling to the art dealer Ambroise Vollard, though it now resides in the Museum of Modern Art in New York as a result of its donation in 1954 by Nelson Rockefeller.