The Past and the Present, or Philosophical Thought Henri Rousseau Buy Art Prints Now
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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 past and the present, or philosophical thought, is one of the most well-known paintings by Henri Rousseau. Rousseau composed the painting in 1899 using oil on canvas medium.

The painting features dimensions of 331/2 by 181/2 inches. In typical Henri Rousseau style, the painting features vivid colors and is depicted in a dreamlike manner.

A description of the Painting

The painting features two standing figures, a woman and a man. The figures are believed to be Henri Rousseau and his wife on their wedding day. The male figure is dressed in a black suit with a white shirt. The suit features a long coat. He has a neat mustache and a neatly combed head of hair. He appears to be holding a flower in his hand. The female figure also has one of her hands holding onto the flower. She is also dressed in a back dress with white fabric at the front center, from her neck to stomach. Both figures have white gloves on their hands. The lady’s hair is also neatly styled, and she has on small gold earrings. Both figures have stern expressions and typical French facial features.

Both figures are entirely covered up, that their feet are not visible in the painting. In addition to the two standing figures, the painting also features two little heads floating above. These little heads are meant as a loving homage to the deceased spouses of Henri and his wife, hence the past aspect of the title. The floating heads are painted inside thick white clouds.

The painting features a bush, tall and short trees behind the male and female figures. One of the short trees is painted in front of Henri and his wife. It features small pink flowers and tiny green leaves. The background of the painting features a blue sky with clouds. However, most of the sky is not visible because of the tall tree behind the hero and heroine, whose branches and leaves cover most of the background.

Similar paintings

Henri Rousseau made several similar paintings where he posed his subjects outdoors. He also made paintings where plants and flowers surrounded his subjects. The flowers and plants were both real and imagined, as he got his inspiration from books. Such paintings include the Portrait of madame M, Boy sitting on Rocks, and several other compositions. Henri also made several paintings featuring himself and his wife.

Final Words

The painting is currently part of the Barnes Foundation Collection. It is located on the North Wall of Room 19. The painting features a public domain copyright status and is currently available for public view.