Henri Rousseau (1844 - 1910)
Self-Portrait, 1907
Oil on canvas, 50 x 46 cm
Nȧrodni Galeri, Prague

This child-like drawing is a self-portrait of the French artist Henri Rousseau.

Many indulgently laughed at his paintings. They could not imagine that this self-taught and eccentric artist would open a new direction in art, which was later named
Na´ve Art.

Rousseau was born in a small town in Brittany, western France. From childhood, he loved drawing and playing the violin. He suffered poverty in his early life, and he was forced to work as a teenager. After his military service, the future artist moved with his widowed mother to Paris, where he worked at the customs office.

That is why Rousseau has been dubbed Le Douanier (The Customs Inspector in French), although he was never a customs inspector but merely a simple tax collector.

Henri Rousseau started drawing and painting seriously at the age of 40, while he was still working at the customs office.

At 49, he retired to devote the rest of his life to art. His meager pension was not enough to survive and the artist often moonlighted as a street violinist.