Burning Bright

28/09/2011 § Leave a comment

Dreams of Rousseau’s  jungle scenes and Blake’s tyger.
Is it all this talk of travel and adventure…?

French painter Henri Julien Felix Rousseau (May 21, 1844 – September 2, 1910) is the most celebrated of the naïvist artists.  Largely ridiculed in his lifetime for his simplistic style, Rousseau’s fame came posthumously.

“Picasso could never have painted Guernica without that gentle innocent, Henri Rousseau.” (See: When Henri Met Pablo)

From the verdant density of the jungle, to the wide eyes of the wild cats, to the streaming mane of the woman, of the gypsy, of the horse…it is like Rousseau has a secret window into my sleeping mind.  Rousseau paints my dreams, dreams that are always just slightly too surreal to be real…

Rousseau’s final masterpiece, The Dream (1910).

[Rousseau’s] …best known paintings depict jungle scenes, even though he never left France or saw a jungle. Stories spread by admirers that his army service included the French expeditionary force to Mexico are unfounded. His inspiration came from illustrated books and the botanical gardens in Paris, as well as tableaux of “taxidermified” wild animals. He had also met soldiers, during his term of service, who had survived the French expedition to Mexico and listened to their stories of the subtropical country they had encountered. To the critic Arsene Alexandre, he described his frequent visits to the Jardin des Plantes: “When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream.

Rousseau’s big cats have been stalking my mind.
The leopard, the lion, the tyger…

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake, 1794

Like Rousseau, English poet William Blake (November 28, 1757 – August 12, 1827) was largely unrecognized during his lifetime.  He has since been recognized as an important member of the Romantic Movement.

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