Arts & Culture

The Sleeping Gypsy

Henri Rousseau1897

MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art
MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art

Rousseau described the subject of The Sleeping Gypsy as: "A wandering Negress, a mandolin player, lies with her jar beside her (a vase with drinking water), 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." A toll collector for the city of Paris, Rousseau was largely a self-taught painter, although he had ambitions of entering the academy. This was never realized, but his sharp colors, fantastic imagery, and precise outlines—derived from the style and subject matter of popular print culture—struck a chord with a younger generation of avant-garde painters, including Pablo Picasso, Vasily Kandinsky, and Frida Kahlo.

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