Thursday, September 18, 2008

Henri Rousseau meets Street Fighter II

I'm not sure what to add next, but I found a painting yesterday that I thought was really funny, so I figured I'd put that up.

It's by one of my favorite artists, Henri Rousseau, and it's called Exotic Landscape, Fight between Gorilla and Indian (1910). Now, the junglescape is lovely, of course...but then at the bottom (as foreshadowed by the painting's title) we find a motif seldom invoked in French Post-Impressionism: a gorilla fighting an American Indian!

Never mind the sort of awkward postures. Never mind that they seem to be smaller than flowers. Never mind that gorillas and Indians come from two different continents. That's part of what I love about Rousseau: it's a pastiche of imagery, a sort of hodgepodge. And while the painting might not be factually accurate, it works very well visually. His jungle paintings are less like a National Geographic photo, and more like a dream you had about the jungle.

I was excited to find an homage to the painting, created by American artist Donald Simpson in 1990. I like to think of it as what Rousseau would have created if he'd had a stronger technical background:

After more research, I found a similar piece, also painted in 1910, that shows an uncanny prescience for video-game-robot/devil imagery on Rousseau's part. Housed at the Fresno Guggenheim, the exultant Exotic Landscape: Fight between Cyberdemon and Woman in Pink