Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau
by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Amanda Hall
Eerdmans, 2012.  Unpaged.  Nonfiction

        Although now celebrated as one of the greatest naive, i.e., self-taught, painters of all time, Henri Rousseau had an unpromising beginning.  He was by profession a toll collector and didn't take up art until he was forty years old. He was only allowed to exhibit in unjuried shows, and then he was mocked and abused by the critics. But Henri wouldn't--couldn't!--stop painting his jungle scenes, brilliantly colored and filled with a life Henri had never actually seen except in the botanical gardens of his native France. Henry kept on and so did his critics, but the rising generation of painters and art lovers, including Picasso, including Apollinaire, love his work and take the aging artist into their hearts and homes. Not only does one gain a deep appreciation for Rousseau and his work from this delightful picture book, but a renewed determination to see the world in one's own way, to never ever give up.

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