The Sleeping Gypsy, painting by Henri Rousseau (1897)

Culture's Ways The Sleeping Gypsy, painting by Henri Rousseau (1897)

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The Sleeping Gypsy is an 1897 oil painting by French Naïve artist Henri Rousseau (1844–1910). It is a fantastical depiction of a lion musing over a sleeping woman on a moonlit night.


What is the Sleeping Gypsy?

Rousseau first exhibited The Sleeping Gypsy at the 13th Salon des Indépendants, and tried unsuccessfully to sell it to the mayor of his hometown, Laval. Instead, it entered the private collection of a Parisian charcoal merchant where it remained until 1924, when it was discovered by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles. The Paris-based art dealer Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler purchased the painting in 1924, although a controversy arose over whether the painting was a forgery. It was acquired by art historian Alfred H. Barr Jr. for the New York Museum of Modern Art.


Rousseau described his painting as follows: “A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her, overcome by fatigue in a deep sleep. A lion chances to pass by, picks up her scent yet does not devour her. There is a moonlight effect, very poetic.

Who was Henri Rousseau?

He was a French post-impressionist painter (1844 – 1910) in the Naïve or Primitive manner. He was also known as Le Douanier, a humorous description of his occupation as a toll and tax collector. He started painting seriously in his early forties; by age 49, he retired from his job to work on his art full-time.

Ridiculed during his lifetime by critics, he came to be recognized as a self-taught genius whose works are of high artistic quality. Rousseau’s work exerted an extensive influence on several generations of avant-garde artists.

Text: Wikipedia contributors. “The Sleeping Gypsy.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 Jul. 2017. Web. 20 Aug. 2017. & Wikipedia contributors. “Henri Rousseau.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 Jul. 2017. Web. 20 Aug. 2017.

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