1844, Laval – 1910, Paris
The earliest known paintings by Rousseau, at that time employed by the Paris municipal customs service, are from 1877. In 1893 he retired in order to devote himself fully to painting. From 1886 onwards he exhibited regularly at the Salon des Indépendants and took part in numerous competitions. It was not until 1905, however, that one of his works – the painting Le lion, ayant faim, se jette sur l’antilope – was selected by a jury for the first time and its presentation was widely reported in the press. This painting was also the first work of Rousseau’s to enter the art market, thanks to the efforts of gallerist Ambroise Vollard. Through his friendships with the poet Alfred Jarry, the artists Delaunay and Picasso, and the group around Apollinaire, as well as his contacts to Gauguin, Redon, Seurat and Pissarro, he found a handful of loyal admirers and supporters of his art. Rousseau was wrongly classified as an exponent of naïve painting throughout his lifetime and beyond, and his contribution as an important forerunner of modernism was not recognized until long after his death.