Henri Rousseau - Surprised!

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Surprised! (Tiger in a Tropical Storm)
Henri Rousseau (France, 1844-1910)
Oil on canvas, 130 x 162 cm (51⅛ in × 63¾ in)
London, National Gallery

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
in the forests of the night.
What immortal hand or eye
could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake

The art of “Le Douanier” Rousseau has been described as naive, primitive, sauvage... It is, in short, an unclassifiable painter, perhaps the most original and uninhibited of all the artists who emerged after the twilight of the impressionism, author of timeless works, such as "The Dream" or "The sleeping Gypsy".

"Surprised!" (sometimes translated as "Surprise!") was the first “jungle painting” created by Rousseau. The artist had never left France, so the tropical landscape comes from the artist's imagination, fueled both by stories about Mexico told by French soldiers and by his visits to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. "When I enter these greenhouses and see these strange plants from exotic countries, I feel as if I have stepped into a dream" wrote the painter. In addition, it is possible that Rousseau had seen a tiger at the zoo in Paris, or even dissected, but the animal in this painting appears to have been taken from the "exotic" paintings by Eugène Delacroix.

The title "Surprised!" also serves to describe the reaction of critics and audiences when the painting was exhibited at the Salon des Independants in 1891. The Swiss painter Felix Vallotton said the work was "the alpha and omega of painting". Despite the relative success of the work, the artist did not create another “jungle painting” until 10 years later, when Rousseau began his "prodigious decade" that culminated in the sensational "The dream" selected in 2006 by as one of the 50 masterworks of painting.

G. Fernández -

Rousseau - The Dream

"The Dream" is Henri Rousseau's most famous work

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