Portrait of the Second Wife of the Artist 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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Portrait of the Second Wife of the Artist is an oil on canvas painting created by Rousseau (1844 – 1910) seven years before his passing.


The illustration is of the artists' second wife. To become a subject for his works, she likely inspired him, hence the creation of this painting in her honour. Rousseau depicts his second wife as a gloomy personality as there is a blank expression on her face. Her brow is slightly lifted, almost like she is wondering about something. She stares straight ahead of her and seems oblivious that she is the subject of this piece of art, aptly named Portrait of the Second Wife of the Artist.

Illustration and Technique

The art style the artist uses in this piece of art is one of symbolism. This is seen in his use of gentle brush strokes to illustrate the emotion between him and his wife at the time of the painting. The blank expression of the subject's eyes invites the viewer to be a part of her current state of mind. Rousseau uses brush strokes to outline his second wife's hair, symbolizing an organized woman. This is shown by how perfectly her hair sits on her head. Her lips are pursed, expressing disapproval, probably of what lies in front of her.

The subject faces the lamp, and it's almost like she is gazing right through its illumination. The lamp holder looks like an antique piece, and the artist has taken his time to show its decorative detail and beauty. The Chinese-collar dress that the artist's second wife wears is smartly pressed and has no visible creases. It can be assumed to signify that the artists' second wife was a relatively private and closed-off individual.

The use of bright white and cream pigments in the background illustrates the presence of light, likely due to the lit lamp that stands before the subject in the Portrait of the Second Wife of the Artist. Although the subject seems a little old, her hair is still mostly black, indicating she is middle-aged. The artist used black hues and shades of grey, soft brush strokes at the hairline to make the hair blend in with the subject's facial colour. The presence of earrings and a brooch on her dress show that the woman has style and class. This is also indicated in the golden-coloured lampstand. The artists' wife's face is pale likely resulting from her wonderment. You might also like Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy, Football Players and Merry Jesters.


The painting is currently in the custody of Museum Picasso.