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C O U R S E 
Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender
Jeanette Hoorn, The University of Melbourne
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Dream by Henri Rousseau
Notes taken on September 18, 2017 by Edward Tanguay
Henri Rousseau (1844-1910)
an outsider artist
spoke to the generation of the surrealists
died impoverished
1910 The Dream
strange and enigmatic painting
a dream of a Polish woman with whom Rousseau had had a relationship
naked, she reclines on a red couch, her arm outstretched in a regal manner
she is in a tropical jungle
a musician playing the flute is hidden in the foliage
in this painting, we find beauty that is indisputable, a Louis Philippe sofa lost in the forest
the painting evokes feelings of fertility, pleasure, and desire
the plants are lush and the animals strange and beautiful
it's not conventionally sexual but it is gently erotic
the erotic concerns the aesthetic of sexual desire
ripe fruit, the threat of animality, and the suggestion of hidden depths, all of these combine to create an erotically charged poetic appeal
Rousseau wrote a poem to explain the painting and the odd juxtaposition of objects
original poem:
Yadwigha dans un beau rêve
S'étant endormie doucement
Entendait les sons d'une musette
Dont jouait un charmeur bien pensant.
Pendant que la lune reflète
Sur les fleurs, les arbres verdoyants,
Les fauves serpents prêtent l'oreille
Aux airs gais de l'instrument.
the poem speaks of a woman dreaming, but in the painting, the women is not asleep
we enter her dream directly
we see she is awake in her own dream
"he was consumed by the color, the moon, and the lilies"
"his eyes were so possessed by the glowing red of the couch on which Yadwigha was regally reclined under the moon in the dark jungle among those over-sized lilies"
the painting has many questions with few answers
why is Yadwigha having such a strange dream
what does the dream mean
why does she imagine herself naked
why does she place herself in an exotic jungle
why are the animals so companiable, even the lions and serpants
who is the hidden flute player
dreams in paintings
artists often use their dreams and inner worlds as an inspiration for their art
in the fin-de-siècle era, the dream took on new meaning particularly because of the ideas of Sigmund Freud and the avant garde artists
Edvard Munch (1863-1944)
painted the dark side of the dream in his famous work of 1893, The Scream
explores a sense of alienation and inner terror
Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978)
Italian artist and writer
founded the scuola metafisica art movement, which profoundly influenced the surrealists
set his paintings in strange dreamscapes which resisted interpretation
1900 Freud's Interpretation of Dreams
profound influence on the surrealists in the 1920's
everything we repress will return
perhaps Rousseau's painting was inspired by Freud's couch
she is on a red couch in an uncanny place where the familiar is rendered unfamiliar
topics of dreams, sexuality and desires were common in the 20th century
the era of psychoanalysis
Eve without Adam theme
painting: 1906 Eve
Eve stands naked in a jungle
holds out her hand out to a serpent
oranges instead of apples
also a sense of harmony in nature
Rousseau's Dream
Yadwigha is like Eve in a lush, entangled Darwinian jungle
jungle suggests the unconscious mind of the dreamer
many animals
an elephant almost hidden by foliage
the piper who has tamed the wild beasts of the jungle
her outreached arm reminds us Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
but here a woman reaches out her hand and creates a tropical forest teeming with life
she is the original womb which brings forth life
her naked form draws the eye not so much because she is sexually objectified but she is the source of creativity
there is no sense that Yadwigha is performing for a male gaze
she is self-assured, peaceful and in harmony with life
her body is erotic, rounded, voluptuous, but not sexualized in a gratuitous manner
it's a waking dream, all characters have the eyes wide open
painting is captivating
strange symmetry to it shapes and forms
at first the jungle seems impenetrable
the jungle seems to glow from within
the curve of the serpent's body rhymes visually with the curve of her leg
her rounded breast echoes the roundness of the full moon
the wide-eyes looking of the lions looking out at the viewer suggest they are under the spell of the piper
perhaps the black flute player represents the black servant who often accompanied the female nude of classical painting
but the flute player is an &active& person, and less of a servant
some saw Rousseau as a primitive painter
he saw himself as a modernist
pays little attention to photographic likeness, perspective and depth
created meaning through intricately designed flat planes of color and distortions of scale
he uses flattened space
an absence of illusionist lighting
his work was ridiculed by conventional art critics
he found himself increasingly on the side of the avant garde
mixed with avant garde artists such as Picasso
Picasso knew he was a forerunner to new approaches of art
in his focus on dreaming, he is certainly a forerunner to the surrealist movement
surrealists were fascinated with sex, desire and repression
for surrealists, life was a mystery
humans imposed order where there was none
Rousseau painted many paintings in which animals and humans live in harmony
a regular visitor to the Jardin de Plantes
never left Paris
unusual juxtaposing of objects
Rousseau's works were often seen as the repository of dreams and ancient desires