Portrait of a Woman (c. 1895-97) by Henri Rousseau

Portrait of a Woman - Henri Rousseau - c.1895

Artwork Information

TitlePortrait of a Woman
ArtistHenri Rousseau
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions115 x 198 cm
Art MovementNaïve Art (Primitivism)
Current LocationMusée d'Orsay, Paris

About Portrait of a Woman

Henri Rousseau’s “Portrait of a Woman,” created around 1895, is a classic example of Naïve Art, particularly within the Primitivism movement. The artwork is an oil painting on canvas that measures 115 by 198 centimeters. This portrait is currently housed in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where it contributes to the broader narrative of art history with its distinctive style and composition.

The artwork depicts a woman standing amidst a lush and detailed garden. She is presented frontally and occupies the center of the composition, dressed in a traditional-style black dress with puffed sleeves and a modest neckline. Her attire includes a yellowish collar or scarf and a narrow belt cinching her waist. The woman’s expression is serene and direct, her gaze meeting that of the viewer with an air of calm confidence.

Her hands are elegantly placed—one grasping the edge of her dress, revealing a white undergarment, and the other lightly touching a small green branch. These hands are adorned with simple bracelets, providing a subtle embellishment that complements her otherwise unadorned appearance. Around her, the flora is rendered with meticulous attention, displaying a variety of species including daisies and poppies.

The backdrop features a sky with soft, diffused clouds, which adds depth to the scene. To the bottom right of the artwork, a playful detail is included—a small cat engaged with a ball of yarn. The rounded form of the yarn provides a contrast to the verticality and poise of the woman’s figure. Henri Rousseau’s approach to portraiture in this piece is characterized by a sense of innocence and directness, which is in line with the Naïve Art style, eschewing the formal academic techniques of his contemporaries for a more instinctual and unrefined expression.

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