Portrait of a Woman (c. 1895) 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

The artwork “Portrait of a Woman” by Henri Rousseau dates to approximately 1895 and embodies the Naïve Art (Primitivism) movement. Rousseau, known for his self-taught and non-academic style, created this portrait using oil on canvas. The piece measures 115 by 198 centimeters and is categorized within the portrait genre. Presently, it resides in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

The artwork depicts a woman standing in an outdoor setting, surrounded by lush vegetation and flora. She occupies the center of the composition, dressed in a voluminous black dress with puffed sleeves, accentuated at the waist by a slim belt. Her attire is completed with a yellowish scarf around her neck. The woman’s gaze meets the viewer with directness and a calm demeanor, characteristic of Rousseau’s style which conveys a sense of stillness and contained emotion.

The backdrop features an array of foliage and flowers, indicative of Rousseau’s frequent immersion into imaginary and exotic landscapes, although here it serves merely as an accessory to the portrait. Notably, the greenery lacks depth, reinforcing the flatness typical of Naïve Art. At the bottom right-hand corner, there is a small animal, possibly a cat, playing with a ball of yarn, adding a domestic and intimate quality to the scene.

Rousseau’s use of bold colors and simplified forms enhances the sense of an idyllic and serene environment, which contrasts with the more soberly dressed subject. Despite the apparent simplicity, the portrait exudes a narrative quality that invites viewers to ponder the life and thoughts of the enigmatic woman depicted.

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