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Henri Rousseau (Le Douanier Rousseau)

Naïve painter, portraits, landscapes, jungles, scenes of everyday life, allegorical scenes

  • Portrait de femme au bouquet de fleurs (Clémence Boitard, première épouse de l'artiste ?)

Henri Rousseau (Le Douanier Rousseau)

(Laval, 1844 - Paris, 1910)

Portrait de femme au bouquet de fleurs (Clémence Boitard, première épouse de l'artiste ?), circa 1900-1903

Oil on canvas
Signed lower left H. Rousseau
18.3 x 14 cm

Provenance     :
- Galerie L’Effort Moderne, Léonce Rosenberg, 19 rue de la Baume Paris 8e (Label on the back of the stretcher, nr 12)​

Exhibitions    :
- Le Douanier Rousseau L’innocence archaïque, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, from the 22th of March to 17th of July 2016, under nr 8
- Celník Rousseau : Malív ztracený ráj, Národí Galeri v Praze, Palác Kinských, Prague, from the 15th of September 2016 to 15th of January 2017                                          - Du Douanier Rousseau à Séraphine. Les grands Maîtres Naïfs, Musée Maillol, Paris, from September 11, 2019 to January 19, 2020, under number 39

Literature    :
- Le Douanier Rousseau L’innocence archaïque, catalogue of the exhibition at the Musée d'Orsay, directed by Gabriella Belli and Guy Cogeval, texts by Elisabetta Barisoni, Gabriella Belli, Claire Bernardi, Guy Cogeval, Laurence des Cars, Angela Lampe, Annabelle Mathias, Yann Le Pichon, Elelan Pontiggia, Valerio Terraroli, The Editions of the Musée d'Orsay and Editions Hazan, Paris, 2016, described on p. 110 and reproduced in colour on p. 111 under nr 8
- Le Douanier Rousseau L’innocence archaïque, Connaissance des Arts, nr. 702, Paris, 2016, described and reproduced in colour on p. 6
- Celník Rousseau: Malív ztracený ráj, Národí Galeri v Praze, catalogue of the Narodni exhibition Prague Gallery by Kristýna Brožová, Ed. Jarmila Musilová, The National Gallery in Prague, 2016, described on p. 133 and reproduced in colour on p. 50          -Du Douanier Rousseau à Séraphine. Les grands Maîtres Naïfs, catalogue of the Musée Maillol, prefaces of Bruno Monnier and Olivier Lorquin, texts by Marion Alluchon, Yves Guignard, Jeanne-Bathilde Lacourt, Dany Sautot and Alex Susanna, Culturespaces, Gallimard editions, Paris, 2019, described and reproduced in color on p. 98, under the number 39


- Certificate of authenticity by Mr. Henry Certigny, dated 9 May 1993
- Certificate of authenticity by Mrs. Dora Vallier, dated 19 November 1995


This Portrait de Femme au Bouquet de Fleurs is the pendant of the Autoportrait au Bouquet de Fleurs from the Brooklyn Museum of New York. 
It is very likely that this is the portrait of the late Clémence Boitard, first wife of the artist. Rousseau wanted to pay tribute to his beloved wife using the flower language : "roses for love and forget-me-nots". 


Le Douanier Rousseau, Autoportrait au bouquet de fleurs, circa 1900-1903, oil on canvas,  18,7 x 14,6 cm - Brooklyn Museum, New York, USA 


On the 14th of August 1869, Henri Rousseau, 25 years old, got married to Clémence Boitard, 19 years old. The couple had 7 children amongst whom only one will become an adult. After 18 years of marriage, Clémence passed away on the 7th of May 1888, before her 38th birthday.

Henri Rousseau got married again on the 2nd  of September 1899 with Joséphine-Rosalie Nourry. 


Jeanne-Désirée-Clémence Boitard, first wife of Henri Rousseau. photography


Henri Rousseau, 63 years old and reflecting his past, wrote a letter on the 19th of December 1907 in which he confided that he had adored his first wife, who unfortunately had tuberculosis. He wrote:   “. . . ma pauvre femme . . . quitta cette terre . . . après vingt ans de pure union sacrée, chacun vivant pour l’autre . . . ces vingt années furent la joie de ma vie . . .” “J’étais seul. Le grand vide; surtout les deux yeux, qui m’ont tellement manqué dans ma vie. Ah! Cela aurait été mieux si j’étais, moi-aussi, parti avec elle.” Henri Rousseau composed a waltz which he called « Clemence », which was published by the Académie de Littérature et de Musique de France.

In 1899, Rousseau recopied a painting realized in 1890, a double portrait with Rousseau himself and Josephine. Above them, in the clouds, there are two faces : the young Rousseau and his first wife Clémence.

Rousseau entitled his painting Le Passé et le Présent with the following text :

« Etant séparés l’un et l’autre

De ceux qu’ils avaient aimés.

Tous deux s’unissent de nouveau,

Restant fidèles à leur pensée ». 

Le Douanier RousseauLe Passé et le Présent ou Pensée philosophique, 1891 , oil on canvas, 84,5 x 47 cm - The Barnes Foundation Philadephia, USA


Around the same period of our Portrait de Femme au Bouquet de Fleurs, Henri Rousseau also realized another pair of portraits representing himself and his second wife, each with an oil lamp instead of a vase of flowers.


Le Douanier Rousseau - Portrait de l'artiste à la lampe, c. 1900-1903 - oil on canvas, 23 x 19 cm - Musée Picasso, Paris  // Portrait of the second wife of the artist,  c. 1900-1903 - oil on canvas, 23 x 19 cm - Musée Picasso, Paris 

These two famous paintings were part of Picasso's personal collection, a great admirer of Douanier Rousseau. Picasso never sold those two small portraits, and according to a biographer of Picasso when the Catalan master finished a painting he compared it to these two portraits.

Picasso in his studio with his two portraits by Douanier Rousseau - Photography


The Galerie de l'Effort Moderne (1924-1941) is an art gallery created by Léonce Rosenberg, located nr 19, rue de la Baume in Paris. Léonce Rosenberg (Paris, 1879 - Neuilly-sur Seine, 1947), was one of the first defenders of Abstract Art and Cubism, which he discovered thanks to the art dealers Ambroise Vollard and Wilhelm Uhde in 1911 and thanks to Daniel Henry Kahnweiler in 1912. Since then, Rosenberg started to collect paintings by Picasso, Braque, Gris, Herbin, Leger, Severini, Csaky, Laurens, Valmier, Gleizes, Metzinger. During the First World War, he was amoung the first to collect those works and to be a moral and financial support for those artists. After the Great War, he found himself ruined but exposed the works he possessed in his Galerie de l'Effort Moderne and opened to all forms of Cubism ; he also showed Mondrian, Ozenfant and Picabia. In his gallery, he also organized literary and musical meetings. The art collections of Kahnweiler and Uhde were sequestered at the beginning of the First World War (including works by Braque, Dufy, Gris, Laurencin, Herbin, Léger, Metzinger, Picasso and Henri Rousseau). Several public sales at the Hotel Drouot in 1921. Léonce Rosenberg was designated as the expert of these sales. The Galerie de l’Effort Moderne closed definitively in 1941, as a result of anti-Semitic laws.


Wilhelm Uhde (1874-1947) was a Collector, a gallery owner and a critic of German art. He worked mainly in Paris and played an important role in the history of the early 20th century French painting. After Italy, Uhde moved to Paris in 1904, where « la beauté était omniprésente » ; there he met Ambroise Vollard, Kahnweiler and Gertrude Stein. He began to buy works by the still unknown Picasso and Braque. He also contributed to making known the Primitiv Painting, and in particular the works of Henri Rousseau. Uhde organized Rousseau’s first solo exhibition in 1909 and published in 1911 Rousseau’s first monograph.


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