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Le Banquet Rousseau: Picasso and Rousseau’s Friendship

Henri Rousseau was a French Post-Impressionist painter who was self-taught and didn’t pursue art full time until he was in his forties. After serving in the army, Rousseau moved to Paris to support his widowed mother by working as a government tax collector and painting on the side. He fathered six children by his first wife, but only one survived into adulthood. Early in his career he was able to exhibit his work in the renowned Salon Des Independants, but was not considered one of their prominent artists. He was known for his imaginative tropical fantasies especially.

It is said that Pablo Picasso found one of Rousseau’s paintings being sold as a piece of used canvas, he immediately admired the work.  They became good friends over the years and supporters of each other’s work. In 1908, Picasso decided to honor his friend with a banquet that was part humor and part esteem.  The guest list included many influential people including Jean Metzinger, Juan Gris and Gertrude Stein. It began with a sit down dinner that turned into an open house party at Picasso’s studio. It was an extravaganza that lasted all night and has lived on as a story told with much enthusiasm and a little exaggeration by generations of artists.

One of the reasons Picasso said he enjoyed Rousseau’s work was because of its primitive and honest qualities. Rousseau was known for the exotic scenes he depicted, even though he had never left France.  Jungle themes were what he became famous for, like Surprise and Tiger in a Tropical Storm. Pieces like The Dream and The Carnival Evening show the magical side of his personality. Each of these was meant to transport the viewer to a place just outside their own imagination. Picasso saw the genius in his aspirations and applauded Rousseau for his influence on future artists. Please browse our collection of wonderful Henri Rousseau art to find what sparks your own creativity.

Amanda Hadley

About the Author

Amanda graduated from the University of Kansas, where she studied English literature and got a masters degree in library sciences. She enjoys reading, cooking and playing with her nephews. Her best friend is her little dog Brady.