Request a free site audit

Interested in offering ad free site memberships?

Life news: I got a dog


On Henri Rousseau, age, and naivety

A fun account I followed recently on Twitter: @artrousseau. The bot was developed by Andrei Taraschuk, who also manages @The_Barnes_Bot.

A 2009 visit to the Barnes Museum in Lower Merion introduced me to Rousseau, whose style I instantly adored and whose story I came to respect.

Reminiscent of our favorite crazy-haired theoretical physicist, Rousseau’s early career found him in a bureaucratic atmosphere, serving as a customs officer. It wasn’t until his 40’s that Rousseau began painting, and though he received some guidance from established artists, his work displays a clear “naivety” or “primitive” style (these words are now the canonical descriptions of Rousseau’s aesthetic). Drawing his inspiration from dreamscapes, Rousseau illustrated jungle scenes depicting places far removed from his daily reality.

This style, borne dwelling on his own ipseity, helped herald the beginning of the modern art era. The BBC published an article a couple years ago with some choice quotes from Rousseau’s contemporaries:

“Monsieur Rousseau paints with his feet, with a blindfold over his eyes”

“Never seen anything more grotesque”

“Backs jostle in front of his entries, and the place rocks with laughter”

Of course, we know what Ghandi said about laughter.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win

As an art critic explained to the BBC, Rousseau’s naivety was the very source of his genius and his influence. Through his fresh eyes a new world emerged.

Rousseau didn’t care about rules. He made his own. And [as a result] he had a definite influence on Matisse as well as Picasso – in a direct pictorial way.

To me, this is purity; the fundamental act of individual creation and meaning-making. And a career that only spanned a couple decades! That didn’t begin until his 40’s!

In an age when youth is celebrated, when fresh faces and startup hoodies signify Ragged Dick for a new generation, Rousseau’s career is a testament to stoicism and solipsism, a tribute to individuality. It makes me so happy to stand in front of his major compositions at the Barnes.

But I wanted to close this post by sharing a few images that are remarkable to me for another reason. Rousseau’s career takes us to the precipice of the modern & global world. Consider the following pictures.

The Fishermen and the Biplane
View of Malakoff Hauts de Seine
The Football Players
The Eiffel Tower

What do I see in these images? A man bearing honest witness to the transition from techne to technology. To me… this is the good stuff.

Your ad blocker is on.

Read ad free.

Sign up for our e-mail newsletter:
Support quality journalism:
Purchase a Subscription!


Vox Media licenses Chorus to Sun-Times; take a look at what the backend’s like

The team at Vox Media deserves all the snaps for its work on Chorus, the once-mythical “unicorn” content management system that does just about everything a digital publisher could want.

EverQuote and patent medicine

In a thread begun October 2016, Washington Post technology director Aram Zucker-Scharff tweeted about the shady advertising practices of EverQuote, a Boston-based startup. Since then these ads have become prolific on the web (and nearly as prolific are Aram’s tweets documenting the malfeasance).

Send this to a friend