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Carnival Evening

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Carnival Evening by Henri Rousseau
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Artist: Henri Rousseau    Image Code: V03788

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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

    Though he is most prominently known for his jungle scenes, Henri Rousseau's painting Carnival Evening, currently at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is a mysterious composition that gives viewers a glimpse into Rousseau's prefiguring of the Surrealist movement. Painted from 1885-1886, two figures in the foreground, dressed in carnival costume, are bright spots in an otherwise dark and slightly foreboding landscape. Painted in an oddly one-dimensional, planar fashion, the fantastical composition is made even more bizarre by Rousseau's placement of a small, barely visible face in the empty hut beside the figures, leering out at them. Like so many of Rousseau's paintings, its enigmatic quality was criticized during his lifetime, but came to be lauded and appreciated by modern artists after his death in 1910.