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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The environment is not only therapeutic but also a source of inspiration. The environment has inspired artists to come up with artwork that appreciates and celebrates the surrounding. Henri Rousseau was a renowned artist who specialised in animal drawings.

Before submerging himself in artistry, he worked for the Paris customs office. Besides working for the customs office, Henri previously worked in the army. He used to paint while he was still working. At this time, the painting job was just a hobby. He accepted early retirement at his late forties to entirely concentrate on his work. He made a name in creation of with jungle themes. Although his work was ridiculed, Henri did not relent in his naïve artistry. Though self-made, his work was done in a creative manner and in an academic style. His work was exemplary good, and he could take something from a magazine and come up with a catchy distinct picture.

In most of his work, Henri Rousseau was expressing real-life experiences and places he visited. He taught himself painting by copying painting in the art museums. His portraits were funny and engaging. When he was not coming up with wild animal portraits, he was working on human figures drawings. He used vivid colours, unrealistic scale, and ambiguous spaces. Despite facing a lot of criticism, Henri worked hard and made sure he showed his work on annual exhibitions. The conservatives argued that his work had an element of childish due to their dreamlike quality. The fantastic thing about his work is that fellow artists did not criticise it. Established and reputable artists such as Paul Signac and Camille Pissarro praised his work. He got his nickname after retiring from his formal employment at the age of 49 years.

He was given the nickname Le Douanier, which means the customs officer, by Alfred Jarry. Jarry went forward and introduced Henri to Parisian artistic members. The group featured artists who had highly contributed to the realm of art. Some of the celebrated artists who were in the group are Apollinaire, Marie Laurencin, Pablo Picasso, and Max Jacob, among others.

Techniques Used By Henri Rousseau

His artwork was vivid and incorporated paints in layers with the sky in the background. The foreground featured well-done pictures of people or wild animals. Besides, he used unique brushwork to make his work more appealing. One of his fascinating pictures is the tiger in tropical storm. The vivid picture is done in canvas with thin, light grey strands of paints running across. When painting jungles, Henri used more than 50 varieties of green to ensure that the artwork is charming. Despite using low-grade paints and canvas, Rousseau used to come up with stunning pictures. He worked on a single piece of his drawings for a considerable amount of time.


His artwork mainly depicts scenes in the jungle. His work was primarily inspired by his fellow soldiers. The soldiers who had survived the French expedition to the Mexico jungle narrated their experiences to Henri. He attentively listened to their stories in the sub-tropical countries and came up with stunning pictures. He also sourced inspirations from children's books and botanical gardens in Paris. His work also inspired a couple of artists such as Jean Hugo, Fernand Leger, and Pablo Picasso, to mention a few.

Shape, Colour, and Design

Rousseau was a creative artist who used different aspects to express his imaginations vividly. He optimised colours and shapes to describe his ideas accurately. His pictures were huge than typical images. For example, one of his pieces, Child with Doll, features a child who appears to be huge. The child has an awkward pose and a large flat face. He also optimised on the usage of colours to create contrast. Also, his paintings are evenly decorated to achieve that glamorous look. He was deeply in love with nature that's why he took time to paint his work. He painted the blades of grass and flower petals in different beautiful colours.