The portrait of poet Guillaume Apollinaire and his mistress Marie Laurencin was executed just after the notorious party given by Pablo Picasso
to mock Rousseau’s art, but it accidentally catapulted him to fame instead.
Rousseau favored portrait in a landscape genre. The photo has survived in which the artist works on this artwork. We can see that the background is almost finished and only places for figures are left to be painted at the end. The copy of the Muse Inspiring the Poet
by the artist is housed at the Kunstmuseum Basel. Marie Laurencin asked the artist to paint sweet William at their feet, flowers symbolizing poetry. Rousseau went to the Botanical Garden to make sketches many times, though he confused the flowers and instead of sweet William he depicted gillyflowers at the feet of the poet and his muse, a symbol of death and neglect. Marie made a great scandal. Moreover, Laurencin was slim and well-shaped with a slender waist; you would have just an opposite idea looking at the portrait. When Rousseau was asked why he depicted Marie like that he always answered without any hesitation that the great poet needed a great muse.
However, according to the other sources, Marie’s sense of humor prevailed and she burst into laughter looking at her depiction. Though, Apollinaire did not dare to take the portrait home. The painting remained at Rousseau’s and once Russian collector Sergei Shchukin acquired it for his collection. So, The Poet and his Muse
with gillyflowers at their feet was brought into Russia. Suddenly, either due to Apollinaire, who changed his mind, or because of Marie, who tempered justice with mercy, the poet visited Rousseau to take the portrait. The artist had no other way out but to make a copy of the artwork.
The artist changed the flowers in the replica to the right ones; and Marie was depicted not so massive, with her dress undoubtedly highlighting her slender waist, not a wasp one but comparing to the first version of the painting, at least it existed.
Apollinaire in the Basel replica was depicted somewhat neater and fastidious. In the first painting with the gillyflowers the images of Apollinaire and his Muse are extremely individualized, even grotesque and enlarged as if we are looking at the canvas through a magnifying glass, however, the replica obviously was an attempt to produce a salon painting. Rousseau preferred the academic art and moreover, he sincerely believed that he belonged to it. He considered the avant-garde movement just as overindulgence and was focused on the salon painting, though, he failed in academism and created his own amazing and stunning primitive art.