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 Henri Emilien Rousseau  (1875 - 1933)

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Lived/Active: France/Africa/Egypt      Known for: Bedouin desert scene painting, Orientalism

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Ad Code: 1
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from Auction House Records.
l’arrivée du caïd, marrakech
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Few Orientalist* artists of the 19th Century could claim a viable birth right to the genre they perpetuated; Henri Emilien Rousseau, a French painter born in Cairo, was the exception. The son of a distinguished member of the Ottoman public works administration, Rousseau split his childhood between North Africa and France.

Opportunity afforded him the chance to live in Paris where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts* and trained under the great Orientalist painter, Jean-Léon Gérôme. It was this education combined with his already strong ties to the Orient that led Rousseau to repeatedly visit North Africa after 1901 and begin to adopt a style of painting far removed from that of his influential teacher and more in line with the energized aesthetic of the Impressionists.

Passionate about portraying the reality rather than the romance of Bedouin life, Rousseau spent the years between 1920 and 1932 in intense study of nomadic culture and visiting the Rif and Atlas mountains of Morocco. By befriending Caïds, or tribal chiefs, Rousseau was granted access to various regions which were otherwise off limits to outsiders, and gained a unique perspective to his work distinct from that of his more imaginative peers. Perhaps it was here where he fell under the spell of the Bedouin horsemen, a subject Rousseau was already familiar with, and would come to characterize his Orientalist compositions.

In 1927, the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris saw the exhibition of more than eighty Moroccan works by Rousseau which was met with enormous success. This was followed by an exhibition at the Exposition Universelle*, held in 1931.


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