Myself Portrait-Landscape (1890) is an example of a ‘new’ type of hybrid painting Rousseau felt he had invented. Hardly new, one might think, and it is easy to see the signifiers in the landscape as a poor substitute for the more subtle qualities of portraiture by a skilled painter. Trying to combine portrait and landscape can be viewed as a naïve error, like an amateur photographer trying to get ‘both in’ to a picture. But perhaps the strangeness of Rousseau’s vision lends both portrait and landscape a dreamlike quality pointing to the way we see people in our imagination.
An earlier work, Carnival Evening (1886), was Rousseau’s first painting for the Société des Indépendants exhibition. Far from being obviously ‘primitive’ it is an intriguing Symbolist landscape, although what gives the painting its arresting quality is not the mysterious characters and the moonlight, but the strange, sinuous shapes of the trees. The same could be said of his other early work: familiar-but-strange trees dominate Promenade in the Forest (c1886) and Rendezvous in the Forest (1889).
Henri Rousseau, Promenade in the Forest (c1886)
Source: Wikimedia Commons
When Rousseau came to paint jungles he famously used as his source the tropical foliage on view in the Jardin des Plantes, in
When he turned to the landscape around