28 June 2013

Early summer education, 28 June 2013

No Coursera classwork has been done for a week now... for twelve days in a row, I've worked long, long hours.  

Negro Attacked by a Jaguar,
Henri Rousseau,
oil on canvas, 1910
I was thinking about H. Rousseau again, and the idea that his style is based on him seeing Kashmiri papier-mâché boxes, the kind decorated with naqashi painting.

His mature palette (his colors) and style are unique in Western painting. The rhythms in his work, and the people, animals and settings he portrayed - where did they come from?

He lived in Paris, and never traveled to lands with jungles.

Yes, he sometimes went to zoos or botanical gardens.

But I don't think that accounts for his warm-toned, intense colors...

Henri Rousseau,
Or how he painted vegetation outlined in lighter hues, and silhouetted against luminous skies.

Or how he built up dense scenes from layers of simple shapes.

Or his smooth brushwork, an unusual technique at the time.

Kashmiri papier-mâché box
However, consider:

He was a tax collector. He handled goods that came in to Paris. To collect the taxes, he would have viewed goods and assessed their values. Over the years, then, how could he have avoided seeing hundreds, and maybe thousands, of naqashi-decorated Kashmiri papier-mâché boxes?

The boxes were very popular and the French were importing them like crazy, in those days.

Here are two close-ups of naqashi work. See what you think:

close-up of naqashi painting
on an antique Kashmiri papier-mâché box 
close-up of naqashi painting
on a Kashmiri papier-mâché box

I have no idea if Rousseau was actually influenced by Kashmiri painting.

But I react to Rousseau's work the same way I do to Kashmiri design and painting: I hunger to touch it, and to see it every day, a visceral reaction I don't feel for other kinds of art.

So I'd love it if it's shown that Rousseau saw those gorgeous boxes, and worked out how to paint that way, and dreamed fables and scenes set in Kashmir, and did his best to translate his dream-stories, with his hands, into African-themed pictures, to make something unique.


I've kicked some of the work pressures away. Emergencies are temporarily under control. 

I won't be able to catch up any of the classes in full. But I will be able to go back to watching lectures & reading.

May the God of Work Emergencies take a vac for a few weeks now.

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