10 x 10"
oil on panel
When you think of the French artist Henri Rousseau, you envision paintings of imaginery jungle settings and various animals. My new painting features his deviation from the norm - The Sleeping Gypsy - described by Rousseau this way: 'A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her (a vase of 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."
Rousseau was a self-taught artist, an artist before his time in many ways. In The Sleeping Gypsy he incorporates key items from different countries - the African woman wearing an Oriental frock, the Italian mandolin - items customary to their respective cultures. That was different in the world of painting.
Stand next to this painting in the Museum of Modern Art and no doubt you'll eavesdrop on someone who points out the symbolisms - the lion representing power, the sleeping gypsy representing peace, the moonlight representing calm and possible unity. Interestly, Rousseau had a difficult time selling this painting. It changes hands several times - first to a French charcoal merchant, then to an art dealer until a controversary arose whether the painting was a forgery. I mentioned it was a deviation from the normal paintings Rousseau was known for - that was the basis of the claim, albeit a stupid one. It was finally purchased by the art historian Alfred Barr Jr. for the MOMA.
Please click here for a larger view.