Palazzo Ducale

Doge's Palace

HENRI ROUSSEAU. Archaic candour

Room 7

Archaic candour

March 6 – July 5, 2015
Venice, Palazzo Ducale – Doge’s Apartment


Extended until September 6, 2015



Rousseau loved landscape painting and spoke of long walks on the outskirts of Paris sketching urban views, parks and gardens.

The works present scenes of everyday life and stories of petit-bourgeois normality pervaded by an almost Arcadian feeling that recalls the works of many American primitive painters of the 18th and 19th century, a curious contiguity grounded on the same intense pursuit of identity.

The silent atmospheres of The Mill, House on the Outskirts of Paris and People Walking in a Park are the fruit of “expeditions” into the countryside just outside the city gates. Unlike the Impressionists, Rousseau attached great importance to drawing. Buildings and vegetation are precisely delineated while the people inhabiting his almost motionless landscapes are reduced to small, anonymous, almost identical figures.

These aspects are evident also in the tributes Rousseau paid to France’s technological modernity, as in Quai d’Ivry, which shows a crane and the airship La Patrie, and The Anglers, which again shows the Quai d’Ivry but with a biplane flying overhead.

Rousseau’s characteristic incongruities of perspective can be seen in the Footbridge at Passy. Comparison of his seascapes, with their emphasis on drawing and the handling of colour, with Paul Signac’s coeval Red Buoy highlights the very different approaches of the two artists. This did not, however, prevent Signac, as president of the Société des Artistes Indépendants, from accepting the Douanier’s workin its exhibitions from the very outset. Another founder of the Indépendants was Georges Seurat, whose Landscape in the Ile-de-France, on show here, is unusually painted in earthy browns with no trace of human presence.

The dialogue between Rousseau’s approach and the Impressionist and post-Impressionist schools is more evident in the seascapes and emerges also from comparison with an interesting view of a stretch of the Seine in the snow by the young Gauguin. While both the technique and the subject matter are close to the Impressionists, there is also marked attention to drawing, an aspect that was to characterize the subsequent work of the master of Synthetism.

The Dutch painter Frans Post, one of the artists of the past most admired by Rousseau, is also featured in the room. During a long stay in Brazil from 1637 to 1644 in the retinue of Prince Johan Maurits of Nassau, governor general of the Dutch colonies there, he painted a large numberoflandscapes characterized by great precision and attention to detail.

A large number of Post’s Brazilian landscapes were presented to Louis XIV in 1678–79 by the Prince of Nassau. At least eight of these works hung in the Louvre, a museum that Rousseau loved and visited frequently, up to the beginning of the 19th century.