Surprise! (1891) by Henri Rousseau

Surprise! - Henri Rousseau - 1891

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Artwork Information

ArtistHenri Rousseau
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions161.9 x 129.8 cm
Art MovementNaïve Art (Primitivism)
Current LocationNational Gallery, London

About Surprise!

“Surprise!” is a notable work by artist Henri Rousseau completed in 1891. This oil on canvas painting is a fine example of Naïve Art, characterized by its Primitivism style, and measures 161.9 by 129.8 cm. The genre of this artwork is wildlife painting, and it is currently housed in the National Gallery in London.

The artwork presents a vivid and intensely colored jungle scene. At the focal point of the composition is a tiger, its stripes rendered with meticulous care, mouth wide open as if caught mid-roar. Surrounding the central figure is a verdant and dense thicket of tropical foliage, which Rousseau has illustrated with a variety of textures and green hues, interspersed with bursts of red and yellow flora. Above, the canopy of leaves and branches partially shrouds the grey, turbulent sky, suggesting the ominous atmosphere of an approaching storm. The composition overall is notable for its dreamlike and imaginative quality, which does not strictly adhere to the naturalistic details of a jungle environment but instead, invokes a sense of wonder through its stylized depiction. Despite the wildness implied by the presence of the tiger and the storm, there is a paradoxical sense of stillness that pervades the scene, as though each element is suspended in time.

The artistic choices in the artwork reflect Rousseau’s self-taught background, contributing to the unique charm and idiosyncrasy that marks his oeuvre. Through its complex layering of elements and its enchanting, almost surreal quality, this painting remains a compelling example of Henri Rousseau’s distinctive approach to art.

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