A charming, affecting picture-book life of France’s most celebrated naive painter—Henri Rousseau.
Around 1884, when he was in his 40s, Rousseau determined that he needed to transcend his life as a customs officer and began to recreate himself as an artist. Though he had no formal training and few financial resources, he persevered and created countless canvases that showcased his unique, almost magical personal visions, visions that continue to resonate with young and old alike. Rousseau was ridiculed repeatedly by critics and artists, yet he continued to create his exotic, seemingly unsophisticated paintings. His lush tropical scenes were fueled by visits to the botanic gardens; his exotic animals were inspired by visits to the zoo. Though he remained a perpetual outsider, the Parisian avant-garde eventually embraced the visionary Rousseau, honoring him at a 1908 banquet (organized by Picasso himself). Markel’s simple, poetic text (“tropical plants fruit and flower into garlands, rockets, and rosettes of color”) is matched with Hall’s vivid, venturesome illustrations. The bright watercolor-and-acrylic paintings have an impressive vitality and wonderfully channel Rosseau’s fantastic motifs and his characteristic use of flattened shapes and perspectives.
This lovely, child-friendly biography evokes and celebrates this fabulous naif. (author and illustrator notes) (Picture book/biography. 5-9)