Tropical Landscape: American Indian Struggling with a Gorilla (Primary Title)
"Tropical Landscape - An American Indian Struggling with an Ape" title changed by MM 9/25/07. (Former Title)

Henri Rousseau, French, 1844 - 1910 (Artist)

oil on canvas
Unframed: 44 3/4 × 64 in. (113.67 × 162.56 cm)
Framed: 56 1/2 × 76 in. (143.51 × 193.04 cm)
Rousseau was a self-taught artist who made a living as a toll collector while he aspired to become a respected member of the artistic establishment. The naive and artificial style of this painting typifies his highly original compositions, which appealed to enthusiasts of the avant-garde when he exhibited at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. He conceived his landscape as a progression of flat planes arranged in a manner resembling theater scenery. Framed in the composition's center, a man dressed in feather loincloth and headdress and a gorilla figure as unlikely opponents. The artist exploits racist stereotypes about indigenous people that were all too prevalent in the popular European imagination of the time. The fight between man and beast, in relief against a background of uncultivated nature, reflects a conception of distant tropical geographies as still "uncivilized." This culturally relative evaluation had long served as a pretense for colonial invasion. This prejudice coexisted in Rousseau's mind with a sincere fascination and curiosity for non-European cultures, which he perceived as poetic and exotic.
Signed and dated lower right: "Henri Rousseau / 1910"
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
2019-2020: "Van Gogh Monet Degas, The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts", Palazzo Zabarella, Padua, Italy, October 26, 2019 - March 1, 2020

2019-2021: Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Their Times: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN, February 2 - May 5, 2019; Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS, April 4, 2020 - January 10, 2021

2018-2019: "Van Gogh, Monet, Degas: The Mellon Collection of French Art from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts", The Frick Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, March 17 - July 15, 2018; Oklahoma Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 22 - September 22, 2019
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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