Mar 15, 2011

Henri Rousseau

* Rousseau is known for his jungle theme but I appreciate some of his lesser known works because it gives helpful clues to how he arrived at his own system of painting. I think this particular piece is very typical of his works - with their well arranged elements, attempting to flatten the space, with the more decorative parts such as the tree that are rendered with a little more brushwork, and the sky reminiscent of some Japanese print the way the colors blend so subtly in a gradual manner. 

Found on: 

Lot 223, "Paysage avec usine," by Henri Rousseau (Le Douanier), is a very pleasant, 15-by-18-inch oil on canvas, circa 1896-1906. The asymmetrical composition is greatly enlivened by the slightly curving paths in the lower half of the work and the wisps of smoke from the factory's chimneys in the top. This work has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $361,500 including the buyer's premium as do all prices mentioned in this article. (This season both Christie's and Sotheby's raised their seller's fees to 19.5 percent for the first $100,000 and 10 percent above $100,000.)

The catalogue entry provide the following commentary:
"The [landscape] views are often nondescript and hardly picturesque; nevertheless, much of the poetic charm and serene timelessness of these scenes stems from the banality of his motifs. He was partial to gray, working glass neighborhood sand held no aversion to dingy factory buildings and warehouses. The Impressionists usually avoided such signs of the industrial revolution in their landscapes, although Seurat and the many of his Neo-Impressionist followers, man of whom held anarchist and socialist political views, felt an moral obviation to be truthful to the reality of their surroundings while Rousseau shared these sympathies, he followed no agenda, and the appearance of the factory smokestack in the present painting, emerging from behind a small grove of trees, seems perfectly natural and matter-of-fact, no more or less so than the presence of a stroller, a horse or a dog. The great imaginary jungle landscapes for which Rousseau is most famous present a dense and impenetrable world in which half-hidden and mysterious dramas unfold. His suburban landscapes, on the other hand, show a world that is entirely open to the viewer's gaze, with wide spaces and distant vistas under large and usually cloudless skies (the artist is careful to show a gray urban haze on the horizon, further evidence of the encroachment of modern industry)."

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