Portrait of Frumence Biche in Civilian Clothes 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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Born in 21 May 1844, Henri Rousseau was one of the renowned post-impressionist painters of his time, especially known for his primitive or naïve painting style. He started taking his painting career not until he was in his early forties and went to art full time when he turned 49.

Inasmuch as he was ridiculed because of his naïve art primitivism painting style, the self-taught genius rose to become one of the most prolific names in the industry. That is why he influenced an extensive collection of avant-garde painters.

The Painting

This particular painting was acquired in 2002 by City of Nice and it represented a huge milestone in Henri Rousseau’s artistic career. A quick look at this painting and you immediately realise that there is a shift in the shoulders of Frumence Biche, with an asymmetry of his face. Furthermore, you also notice an intricate depiction of two faces in one. From an artistic eye, this intricate depiction was achieved by painting Frumence Biche simultaneously coming from the front and three-quarters.

These kinds of brushstrokes were crucial in enabling Henri Rousseau to inaugurate one vision but with several focal points. This is something that Picasso picked up and used during one of his Cubism lessons in 1907. Moreover, it is evident that his intention was not to depict Frumence Biche in 'line for line' manner, but rather to try his best to immortalise his figure in space and time. If you were keen enough, you will also realise that he made use of this technique on the Portrait of Pierre Loti. It is as a result of his brilliance on this Frumence Biche painting that Henri Rousseau was able to be regarded as a modern painter.

His inspirations and influences

Since he was a self-taught genius, Henri Rousseau was essentially an archetypal naïve painter. That is why his paintings were able to arouse the derision of some of the contemporary critics. At the same time, amassed admiration and respect of other great names like Wassily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso. This was because he taught them to reveal the possibilities underlying in simplicity. Furthermore, he wasn’t exactly inspired by first-hand experiences from the natives, but by his numerous visits to the museums and gardens in Paris. He was also a great influence in some of the artistic movements like Surrealism, naïve art and fauvism.