Thursday, November 21, 2013

Closely looking at Henri Rousseau's "The Dream" + Ted Meyer Shows How Life Leaves a Mark + Enjoy Creme Brulee During the Holidays

This large oil on canvas painting (size: 6' 8 1/2" x 9' 9 1/2") 
is by French artist Henri Roussaeu (1844-1910).
It is titled "The Dream" and is currently in the permanent collection
of The Museum of Modern Art, NYC.
He painted it near the end of his life, in 1910.
Closely looking at
Henri Rousseau's
"The Dream"

Artist Henri Rousseau completed more than twenty-five jungle paintings during his lifetime. He enjoyed images of the exotic and drew on what was available to Parisian urban dwellers: literature, zoos, natural history museums and botanical gardens. The artist said, "When I am in these hothouses and see the strange plants from exotic lands, it seems to me that I am entering a dream."

Actual state, color and contrast of the painting today.

Without some guidance most viewers will miss much of the detail in this painting, which has darkened with age. We have lightened all photos of this artwork to make the analysis easier and the viewing more enjoyable. 

Now let's look deeply into the foliage of Henri Rousseau's "The Dream" and see the interesting mixture of the domestic, the exotic, the erotic and the artist's use of creative license.

Let's start with the obvious: a nude young lady is reclining on a velvet settee, sofa or love-seat casually posing for the painter in a jungle, as lions approach. We are not dealing with the biblical Eve here, the settee negates that idea, but this does show an idealized torso in an idealized natural setting. The Garden of Eden does seem to have played some roll in Rousseau's thinking when he was designing this painting. 
We will chalk-up the reclining female to one of the main reasons
this painting is titled "The Dream". 
Could this have been an actual dream from Rousseau's deepest rim sleep?

A nude on a sofa is certainly out-of-place in a jungle.

The face of the model is very naive in its rendering. 
It is doubtful a model was in front of the artist
when he painted this face.
In fact, the execution of the entire painting shows
the artist's lack of training and knowledge.

Let's look very closely at the brush strokes and actual oil paint used by Rousseau. The legs show he used slightly up-hill, horizontal brush strokes. You can see either the beginning
or ending of each stroke, which shows up as dots of lighter colored paint.
The pinkish Caucasian flesh tones are highlighted with yellows and white
and the shadows are made with green and brown paints.

The breasts have unnaturally round shapes, probably drawn with a compass, rather than from life and an actual artist's model. The belly button is a brown dab of paint and the hair braids are defined more by the quickly painted highlights than any of the brown under painting.
Rousseau seemed to use a different color palette in each segment of her body. The head and left arm is one segment, the mid-torso is another, the thigh another, the calf area another, and finally the feet are the last segment with a shift of his color palette. Some segments are more pink with red shadows, others are yellow with green and brown shadows. 
The brush strokes also vary with each body-part.

The Garden of Eden theme is reinforced
by the snake entering the scene, 
at the lower right corner of the painting. 
The snake's close-up - because the top half of the snake
has no contrast with the background and is difficult to see.

Just to the left and above the snake's tale are the two lionesses. One stalks the painter (viewer) while the other stalks the model. The Glowing yellow eyes are haunting and certainly don't make the viewer feel comfortable about their intentions.

Top lion stalks the model.

Bottom lion is focused on the painter,
or more correctly on the viewer.

Notice the beautiful and exotic yellow winged bird
with a white body over the model's head.
Also notice the scale of the vegetation
and flowers in proportion to the human form, 

the plants are huge.
Detail of the yellow winged bird.
It seems to be having trouble with its balance on the stem.

An elephant? Yes, an elephant with it's trunk curled,
hides among the bananas and flowers.
Miraculously it disturbs none of the surrounding foliage.

In the original darker painting, this monkey is very hard to see,
because Rousseau used so little contrast between it and the background
The oranges also draw so much of the viewer's attention
with their color contrast against the greenery.
To the right of the first monkey, a second monkey
hangs from the blue-green branches.
At the right of the second monkey
is an obscure olive green shape
on a solid blue background.
It's hard to tell if the shapes
are intended to be another animal or 
or a crest and shield or just odd blobs
painted behind the stems to fill space.
This is unusual, because every other element
is so well defined in the painting.

To the left of the first monkey,
Rousseau painted a third monkey.
(please excuse the quality of this detail photo)

An exotic, long tailed blue bird with and orange breast plate
rests among similarly colored oranges.
Behind the bird, the light colored sky with a moon

(shown below) creates the lightest area of the painting,
this also creates the most contrast in the painting,
making those leaves and this bird stand out.
Detail of the sky with the moon.

Rousseau's painting of the jungle's vegetation -
the plants' stems leaves and flowers - is spectacular.
The brush strokes here showed he painted in layers,
this flower is painted over the leaves behind it.

If Rousseau had left out the human form and all of the animals in this painting and made it just a landscape, it would still have been a masterpiece of modern art. In particular, notice how he stylized each and every flower and plant - each pedal, each stem and each leaf has been individually designed, placed and colored. This lively fantasy landscape makes up the essence of why this work is so pleasing to the eye and why this painting in particular has become a visual icon. His design of the vegetation has been borrowed by many designers in the applied arts.

Detail of green bananas
Detail of ripe bananas.

The vast variety of shades of green paint
may be the most complex part of the entire painting

Left of center, stands
a dark skinned musician
in a tribal skirt.

The musician is the second major reason this painting is titled "The Dream". This mysterious musician, with his green face, is staring, like a zombie, at the viewer.
He plays a very "Western" looking instrument with a flaring bell like a clarinet.
We must assume he is playing music for the enjoyment of the woman on the sofa.
To his right (above his shoulder) there is a plant with a flower which seems to form another human shape. This effigy resembles an Archimboldo-like person, or a primitive ritual mask/outfit. The effigy is created using the flower as the head (notice the nose), the upward pointing leaves as the shoulders/torso which also makes the waist, and the bottom leaves create the skirt. Other plant stems form arms on either side.

One final look at the entire painting, 
"The Dream"
by French artist Henri Roussaeu.

The Dream was painted during the artist's last year, 1910. Henri Rousseau was a curious figure in the early twentieth-century's avant-garde art circles. As an artist he was self-taught and never had any formal training. For his profession he worked as a customs agent. The simplicity and flatness of his naturally naive style made Rousseau a darling of "modern art lovers."

Although Rousseau never left Paris, his artworks are centered on exotic renditions of jungle landscapes. His paintings were all very detailed, he used great precision in the rendering of each inch of the canvas. Much of his inspiration came from the many magazines of the day, which focused on exotic places and recently discovered cultures around the world.
This painting is obviously a dream because the main focus is the upholstered sofa on which a naked lady reclines as music is played to her, in the middle of a jungle. One interpretation: this was Rousseau's dream. Annother  interpretation: the model is having the dream. Is she actually reclining on this sofa in a Parisian living room but dreaming about the exotic jungle scene around her? 

Who knows? It's much more fun to leave the interpretation of this painting open to each individual's imagination.

Detail of the artist's painted signature
and Rousseau's signature style,

his approach for these painted leaves.

(Source: Museum Press Department, photos taken with permission.)

"Life Leaves a Mark!" 
The stories behind the scars of life and illness.
Artist Ted Meyer talks about his series: "Scarred for Life"

Artist Ted Meyer has a series where he makes prints from people's scars, then paints back into them for the final artwork. The personal stories behind the art make every abstracted design into realism.

 "Scarred for Life" 
Photos and artworks by Ted Meyer.

Ted Meyer made this print from a burn scar on this man's arm
and then added some emotions of his own.

Broken Back

(Source: for more information go to:


Creme Brulee

Creme Brûlée is the exotic dessert we normally only eat at restaurants, but it is easy to make at home.

1 quart heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup vanilla sugar, divided
6 large egg yolks
2 quarts hot water

- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and reserve for another use.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar and the egg yolks until well blended and it just starts to lighten in color. 
- Add the cream a little at a time, stirring continually. 
- Pour the liquid into 6 (7 to 8-ounce) ramekins. 
- Place the ramekins into a large cake pan or roasting pan. 
- Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. 
- Bake just until the creme brulee is set, but trembling in the center, approximately 40 to 45 minutes. 
- Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
- Remove the creme brulee from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes prior to browning the sugar.
- Divide the remaining 1/2 cup vanilla sugar equally among the 6 dishes and spread evenly on top. Using a torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy top. Allow the creme brulee to sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 6 servings.
(source: a family recipe)

Until later,
ARTSnFOOD, is an online publication dedicated to "The Pursuit of Happiness through the Arts and Food." ™ All rights reserved for all content. Concept, Original Art, Original Text & "Original or Assigned Photography" are © Copyright 2013 Jack A. Atkinson under all International intellectual property and copyright laws. All photographs were taken and/or used with permission. Artworks © individual artists, fabricators, respective owners or assignees.


  1. Obrigada por postar uma matéria tão completa, rica em informações. Serviu de fonte para pesquisa e ilustração para aula de Historia da Arte.

  2. Simple tips but meaningful. It can really help college applicants to write their personal statement essay. Correspondingly, at WritePaper.Info they assist college applicants write a significant and efficient essays that convey their qualifications and potentials.

  3. thanks for sharing the information with us it was very informative Dream

  4. Thanks for sharing this post with us.Wikivela