Beading with the Masters: Henri Rousseau
Henri Rousseau is a French post-impressionist painter whose story I find particularly inspiring. He’s one of my favorite painters, not just because I find his paintings beautiful and intriguing, but because he never gave up doing what he loved despite receiving negative criticism about his work throughout his artistic career. He was pretty much entirely self-taught, and that made it hard for him to break into the extremely social-centric world of fine art. Rousseau eventually found his way into the scene, two years before his death, when Pablo Picasso discovered one of Rousseau’s paintings at a market as a canvas to be painted over. He is now recognized as an influential genius whose paintings are considered of the highest artistic quality.
ABOVE: Henri Rousseau’s Vue de pont de Sèvres, Exotic Landscape, Le Rêve, and Self Portrait with Lisa Kan’s Petit Fiore Trellis Bracelet, Barbara Falkowitz and Amy Haftkowycz’s Moroccan Essence Bracelet, Riana Olckers’ Royal Tigereye Bracelet, and Sara-Beth Cullinan’s Garden Bezel Necklace.
I’m an art geek and love exploring art history. I’ve been enjoying learning what inspired artists’ work and tapping into their stories. I’ve selected my favorite notable artists, and in the month of their birth I’ll share their stories with you, and draw correlations between them and beading jewelry designs.
If you’re into art history, too, be sure to check out my previous article about artist Vincent Van Gogh, or read the entire Beading with the Masters series to get all caught up with what I’ve shared so far!
Botanical Themes in Beading
Henri Rousseau was a regular at the Jardin des Plantes, France’s main botanical garden. He once said “When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream.” The foliage and flowers that he encountered there, and his study of book illustrations inspired the jungle scenes that he loved to paint. Nature’s beauty informs artistic choices in every art form, beadwork especially. Here are a few beading patterns that are blossoming with inspiration from plants and flowers:
- Kelly Wiese’s Crystal Buds Lariat brings to mind fresh buds blooming in a springtime garden.
- Sara-Beth Cullinan’s Garden Bezel Necklace is a gemstone donut with a fringey, elegant profusion of leaves and blossoms that’s easier to make than it looks.
- Lynda Taylor’s Garden Dream Necklace is an ethereal botanical statement in soft lilac, lavender, and sage hues.
- Lisa Kan’s Petit Fiore Trellis Bracelet is, indeed, a colorful little trellis of flowers that will encircle your wrist like a delicate corsage.
Rousseau did all of his painting amidst New Imperialism’s Scramble for Africa (the period of time in which European powers, the United States, and Japan engaged in a frenzy of colonization on the African continent). There was an influx of taxidermy of African wild animals, and Rousseau used them to study the animals for his paintings. People read what the explorers said about the nature of lions, tigers, monkeys, and colorful birds, and imagined what it was like to see them in the wild. Check out these beading patterns that might appeal to your own wild side:
- Susan Yvette England’s African Inspirations Necklace is a tribute to the tube and loop necklaces made by Zulu and Ndebele beaders.
- Tina Koyama’s Jungle Gems Bracelet features freeform brick stitch and rich golden and amber hues. It brings to mind the mighty lion that Rousseau featured in many of his jungle-themed paintings.
- Riana Olckers’ Royal Tigereye Bracelet evokes the grace and elegance of both an Indian princess and a fierce tiger.
- Jeanette Baranauskas’ Mother Earth Necklace connects the animal and plant kingdoms with its earthy color palette.
Exotic Imagery for Beading
With subjects such as wild animals in jungles, hot air balloons, bi-planes, sailing ships flying flags from all over the world, I get the sense that Henri Rousseau longed to be a world traveler. He certainly found creative satisfaction through the use of exotic images. These days, it’s a lot easier to get around the world, and in our age of TV and the internet it’s easy to see and experience other cultures and places. Even though the world may be a little less mysterious nowadays, we still are inspired by antiquities and the allure of exotic places, and it shows in our creative endeavors. These beading patterns have a worldly, exotic feel:
- Carole Ohl’s Tahitian Diamond Bracelet transports you to an island oasis with its old-fashioned tropical feel.
- Jayashree Paramesh’s Flower of India Necklace evokes the beauty and intricacy of the fashion and architecture of India.
- Glorianne Ljubich’s Amphora Necklace is like a gilded treasure from antiquity with its rich hues and glittering metallics.
- Barbara Falkowitz and Amy Haftkowycz’s Moroccan Essence Bracelet has bright colors and geometric patterns inspired by Middle Eastern motifs found on rugs and tapestries.
If there’s one lesson to be learned from Henri Rousseau’s story, it’s to keep doing what you love for yourself first. Don’t let the possibility of negative criticism keep you from artistically expressing yourself. If you do receive a critique, don’t be discouraged. You can try to learn from it rather than be hurt by it. Henri Rousseau’s work was often criticized and people said he painted like a child, but he kept right on painting what he wanted to paint, in his own style. His work has since inspired all kinds of artists, including other painters, poets, musicians, and even modern filmmakers.
Technical Editor, Beadwork