Henri Rousseau

Essay by lil_falcoHigh School, 12th gradeA-, March 2007

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The Post-Impressionist painter Henri Rousseau was born in 1844 at Laval in Northern France into the family of a tinsmith. As a child Henri exhibited an interest in the arts, mainly in music and sketches. He wanted to become an artist, but his family did not have the funds to send him to a proper art school. In 1861 Rousseau's family moved to Angers. After Henri finished high school he avoided compulsory military attendance by working for a short time for a lawyer. Sometime later he cheated his employer out of a small sum of money and some stamps and then joined the French army in 1863 and served 4 years. His crime caught up with him in 1864 and spent one month in jail He also later claimed that he fought in Mexico but he really never did.

In 1868 Henri moved to Paris after his father died and took a small position at the French Customs Department where he collected customs fees at a toll station from the local farmers who brought their merchandise to the Paris markets.

This is where he earned his nickname “le douanier”, or “the customs inspector”. In 1868 he started a relationship with his landlord's daughter, Clemence Boitard, whom he would marry in 1869. During the off time of his job he had ample time to take up painting Tragedy struck Rousseau in 1870 when his first born child died at the age of two months. He was very distraught and buried himself in his work for a long while before getting over his loss. His second son was born in 1872 followed by his daughter in 1876. In 1888 Rousseau’s wife was killed by a case of tuberculosis.

In 1885 two of his paintings were exhibited at the Salon des Champs-Elyssees. Most...