The artist is mocked and admired.


(Portrait-paysage, 1890)

Henri Rousseau was a custom officer who taught himself painting. When they met in 1908, Pablo Picasso held a dinner in his honour in his Bateau-Lavoir studio, where Douanier Rousseau’s ingenuity was both half-ridiculed and half-homaged by those present.

On that occasion, Rousseau is reported to have said to his host “You and I, sir, are the two greatest painters of our time.”

He died in poverty. His later ‘forest’ work especially, often dismissed as just naïf, feels as clear-yet-mysterious as a dream.


(Picasso in his studio holding Rousseau’s Self-portrait of the artist with a lamp [1903] and Portrait of the artist’s second wife with a lamp [1903], which he purchased.)