Description of the artwork «A Jaguar Attacking a Horse»
The artwork A Jaguar Attacking a Horse by Henri Rousseau, one of the most famous Naïve or Primitive artists, had been painted just before the artist’s death in 1910. The life of Le Douanier (the customs officer), a humorous description of his occupation as a toll and tax collector, could be an ideal illustration to the classical motivating statement about belief and reaching a dream.
Neither mockery of public at the exhibitions nor pungent remarks of his colleagues could stop a self-taught artist. Though, among his devoted admirers were Robert Delaunay and Pablo Picasso; maître Camille Pissarro at the Salon des Independants in Paris in 1886 drew attention to the opulence of colors of the Carnival Evening by Rousseau. The artist considered his hobby too serious so he left his service to devote all his life to art.
The artist, who cleared the way for all self-taught painters, sincerely believed that he followed all the dogmas of the academic painting and considered his artworks realistic. He was so naïve and ingenious and ignored sarcasm in remarks and comments on his artworks. Rumors has it that once he said to his main admirer Picasso: “You and I are the greatest painters of our time. You in the Egyptian style, I in the modern!”
Despite his career of a professional artist, Rousseau dreamt about distant voyages to far unknown lands and breathtaking adventures. He implemented his dreams in his paintings having executed a large series of artworks depicting wildlife in the jungles (1, 2, 3, 4). He combined his fantasies and reality not only in his paintings but telling his friends about his trips to Mexico and wandering in rain forests.
In reality, he found his inspiration in the Botanical Garden and at the Museum of Zoology in Paris, where he drew sketches of exotic plants and taxidermied animals. Though, despite his poor knowledge of anatomy Rousseau managed to create stunning drawings full of childish frankness, though the tragedy of a victim facing a violent beast on his canvases, was hardly accepted seriously. The subject of A Jaguar Attacking a Horse was depicted so unskillfully that the collision of two animals could be accepted rather like a love game than a mortal battle. This very peculiarity makes the artwork so irresistibly attractive.
Rousseau loved green color and was proud of himself when he managed to use more than twenty hues of it in an artwork. Ardengo Soffici, an Italian artist and critic, once witnessed the process of Rousseau’s working and described it thoroughly. Firstly, Rousseau drew the plant contours clearly and then he applied each hue individually carefully cleaning the palette before using the next one. Step by step the mysterious lost worlds with unknown plants and whimsical bright flowers appeared on his canvas to heat imagination and give rise to love at first sight.