Friday 13 August 2010

Henri Rousseau's portraits

I said in my last posting that I would follow up the naive painter Henri Rousseau's more famous jungle paintings with some portraits of his. Having started a few posts ago with some very modern minimalist portraits by Julian Opie, and then contrasting those with the more naive (faux naive?) style of Frida Kahlo's self portraits I thought I'd contrast those with one or two other painters' works.

The style of Rousseau's portraits are more traditionally what one associates with naive painting, and I like them a lot. I've always been a fan of early American naive painting and portraiture, and I would have to say that Frenchman Rousseau's work has a similar charm. The first one shown here is a self portrait.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Henri Rousseau's jungle paintings

I'm returning to my mini-theme of portraiture by a roundabout route. In my next post I'll put up some portraits by the naive painter Henri Rousseau (1844–1910); but first I'm posting a different aspect of his work. Rousseau is far better known for some of the most popular and memorable paintings of the modern era. He is celebrated for his visionary jungle paintings that captivate the viewer with the lushness of their plant and animal life painted with incredible detail and precision. Extraordinarily the artist never saw the tropical scenes he brought so much to life, as he never left France. His exotic jungle paintings are the fantasies of a city dweller, constructed from visits to the zoo and botanical gardens, from postcards, books and from Rousseau’s vivid imagination. These jungles have intrigued people for decades, offering a dream of escape from humdrum reality to a savage and yet enchanting realm.

Rousseau’s unique vision was celebrated by his modernist contemporaries like Pablo Picasso and the surrealists René Magritte and Max Ernst, who saw his work as opening up new realms of artistic possibility. They were particularly fascinated by his bold, primitive style and the dream-like nature of his paintings. For a customs official who was self-taught and only took up painting full-time in retirement, this was an extraordinary accomplishment.

Monday 9 August 2010

Pakistani Truck Art

This post isn't meant to be flippant in the light of the stream of bad news that keeps coming from Pakistan. Now contending with the human disaster of the monsoon floods, and the seemingly endless reports of terrorist bombs in the larger cities of Pakistan might make it seem like a bad time to be looking at a lighter side of the nature of Pakistan, but I think it's a valid point.

Pakistani truckers consider their vehicles as national symbols and make it a competition as to who has the most fabulous truck. Owners often spend over $3000 on paint and metal designs for their vehicles, which can be many times their monthly salary. Truck art started as a way to differentiate trucks in Pakistan from those in India after the countries split in 1947. Many of the treasured vehicles have an average age of 30 years and every part is replaced to keep the vehicle running as long as possible.

I love these painted vehicles, it's real folk art done with aplomb. I think there are many similarities with the old gypsy caravan painting and fairground art in this country. In Pakistan it's like the 60's and the Hippy trail never died.