Posted by: nicodemomanifesto | September 20, 2009

Rousseau and Primitivism

I have a history paper due at the end of the semester. The subject can be anything I want as long as it is within the 19th and 20th centuries. It’s a long paper so I really want to choose a topic that will spark my interest and hold my attention. Naturally, I went looking for potential topics within the realm of art history, and Post-Impressionism has always been a favorite of mine so I looked for artists or movements during this era.

I didn’t want to do Gauguin or Van Gogh because I’ve already researched them plenty and have done them in past projects. Rather, I was looking for something fresh and intriguing, so who better than Henri Rousseau? Nobody, that’s who! The reason I find Rousseau so compelling is because his paintings are based off of pure imagination, plus he had no formal training so he really developed his own personal style. His paintings which I like most are those which portray a jungle scene, because he made them while he was living in Paris yet they present a scenery which is completely foreign to his location.


The above painting, The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope (1905), is one which I especially like. Rousseau’s style is almost childish, which I find just gives it more of a fantastical edge.

In my history paper I also need to make an argument, not just document the life of the artist of my choice. So I looked farther into the beliefs of Henri Rousseau and found that he is associated with Primitivism, a philosophy which argues that mankind was better off during it’s primitive years, before it was corrupted by society and modern amenities. I’m going to explore the legitimacy of Primitivism and explain how it connects to Rousseau’s art. I’ve always been attracted to the idea of Primitivism, especially when the pressures of school and society start to weigh heavy. Why not just run away into the woods and live off the fat of the land?



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