Henri Rousseau (1844 – 1910), better known as Rousseau the Customs Officer, is the maximum exponent of a peculiarnaïve or children's style painting. And as an example, this work ofGirl with dollthat he made towards the end of his life, in 1906, and that is currently preserved and exhibited in the Musée de l'Orangerie de Paris.
Girl with Rousseau Doll
His peculiar style for a long time was considered to be due more to a technical incapacity than an aesthetic choice. However, some of his working sketches have been preserved, and there he shows himself to be another type of painter with a more agile and less defined brushwork. So it would be clear that in his final works he really opts for this kind of style of a terribly naive appearance.
It is very curious that Rousseau himself confessed that his ingenuousness in painting was maintained by the direct advice of the painterJean Leon Gérôme. A contemporary artist but radically opposed in style to him, sinceGérômerepresents the long prolongation of academic painting with works such as Pollice Verso or Young Greeks witnessing a cockfight.
The only feature that unites them is the precise drawing.The Customs Officerendows all his works with a scrupulous drawing down to the smallest detail. From that drawing he generates colored surfaces, almost always flat. All this is seen inthis work of Girl with doll. She paints in detail the daisy that the girl carries in one hand and the doll itself in the other. And she also carefully paints the white polka dots on her red dress.
That same drawing she applies to the features of her face, with her big eyes or her outlined mouth. She always tends to make each element so blatantly clear that she goes overboard. You just have to see the girl's bushy eyebrows, typical of an adult, or the shadow that surrounds her lips so intense that it seems that the little girl has a beard.
It's a candid style where she doesn't pay attention to the rules of perspectives or proportions at all. Here we only see a gradient in the green of the grass and in the blue of the sky to indicate depth. But that feeling is almost lost with the roundness of the girl in the foreground, who seems to sit on that grass as if it were a chair, leaving her feet dangling so much that they even go out of frame.
All in all, she may seem like she paints like a child, but it's a very particular style and it's really very personal. A way of painting that was improving, and that here reaches its highest levels, since the artist himself said that achieving that style had cost him a lot of effort. And the truth is that no one ever painted in such a childish way as El Aduadero did.