Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tigers at the Tate

The Jungle in Paris exhibition at the Tate is a joy. Wandered round it with my sister and kids Sunday afternoon, all of us enraptured by Rousseau's lush landscapes and improbable creatures. All of his most famous outrageously exotic paintings were there (I'd seen some of them in the Musee d'Orsay in Paris) as well as plenty that were new to me. The mutimedia gadget we carried with us enhanced the experience with commentary and interviews which told of his life (amateur artist, fitting in painting round the day job of toll-collector, totally self-taught yet possessing unflinching belief in his ability) his influences, and the artists that he influenced in turn including Max Ernst and Picasso.

And novelist/poet Michael Ondaatje calls Rousseau a "companion", in the writing of his books, and wrote a poem called Henri Rousseau and Friends which appears in his collection The Cinnamon Peeler. I loved the poem so much that I set out to track the book down in Daunts yesterday. Here's a taste of it - I think Ondaatje distills the essence of Rousseau's paintings so well ...

In his clean vegetation
the parrot, judicious,
poses on a branch.
The narrator of the scene,
aware of the perfect fruits,
the white and blue flowers,
the snake with an ear for music,
he presides.

The apes
hold their oranges like skulls,
like chalices.
They are below the parrot
above the oranges -
a jungles serfdom which with this order
reposes.

9 comments:

Jane Sunshine said...

Sharon, call me!

Animah said...

Hi Sharon!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hope you and the Old Man are well.

I love the picture you posted. Surprised is one of my favourites and I have always had visions of it presiding over my dining room - lush tropical jungle, tiger, rain. I saw it years ago at the National Art Gallery. Wish I was there. I love the Tate (the original). See you when you come back!

Greenbottle said...

Ai yai yai.....that rousseau's painting you posted was my computer wallpaper for a long long time...now changed to a painting i bought in scott market yangon a couple of yrs back.. bunches of almost rotten bananas...

if i remember correctly i saw the original (rousseau's) in peggy guggenhiem museum in venice in mid eighties...

Sharanya said...

Happy new year, Sharon! :) Nice one to start the year with (I fantasise about being Ondaatje's secret love-child and I think Rousseau is fantastic).
:D

dreamer idiot said...

Interesting to know that Rosseau painted in Paris without having ever been into a tropical jungle...one has to marvel at his imagination, albeit one that produces an orientalising tropicalist vision, as evidenced by the exotic imagery 'painted' by Oondatje

Happy 2006!

Leah Ray said...

Lovely, Sharon! Wish I had been there with you! I adore Rousseau, too, although I find a tinge of the melancholy and the sinister, not to say threatening, in them.

Happy new year!

lil ms d said...

read about this in time magazine. happy noo yah and come back in one piece! we have work to do!

Kiki the rambling traveller said...

Dear Sharon
Ooops sorry for the last comment which was completely unchecked before publishing!

Another lovely reminder of Rousseau's work. I was there when the exhibition first opened. It was a great feeling to be greated by the immense sculpture of the Ape and Woman. To be honest with you I was abit lost amongst all the varying themes but I agree that the depiction of the forest is secretly sensual and seductive just to view. So simple... I couldn't resist getting a poster of the tiger in the storm! I think I am the tiger... he seems lost in the storm and doesn't know what's going on... and nor do I!

bibliobibuli said...

jane - oh goodness i missed you this time ... didn't come back to check ... so sorry and hope we can meet next time

animah - happy new year to you too - glad you love the tiger too

greenbottle - according to the catalogue this painting hangs in the national gallery - maybe you saw a similar one?

miss d - yes we do have work to do - let's roll up sleeves - you are my current project

sharaanya- ondaatje's love child??? hey - thought you didn't read books written by men? caught you out! i'm discovering that i really like his poetry ...

dreamer idiot - yes, i find it quite incredible that he was able to create his own very exotic landscape from what he saw in the botanical gardens and in books and magazines ... maybe if he had visited the tropics his pictures would have been less fantastic because he would have been bogged down by actuality?

hey leah - i've missed you! i do hope you're settled and happy now ...

ki - i enjoyed finding out what other subjects rousseau had painted but it's the jungles i love the most