The Jungles Of The Mind

Musee d'Orsay, Paris

INTO THE TREES: The Snake Charmer (1907) beckons the viewer into leafy depths

A moonlit evening sky and a latticework of bare black trees dwarf two figures in white fancy dress. It looks like a dreamscape, and the picture's title, A Carnival Evening, just adds to the enigma. The atmospheric, accomplished work could have been painted yesterday. In fact it's dated 1886, and was one of the first works shown in public by French painter Henri Rousseau (1844-1910).

The artist's flat, hard-edged style and singular imagination owed nothing to anybody. His pictures could be ordinary or outrageous: he depicted the bourgeoisie wearing their Sunday best and he painted mysterious women naked...

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