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Scholars to Present New Findings on Henri Rousseau's Media and Methods
Henri Rousseau, Bonne fête (Happy Birthday), 1892. Oil on cardboard mounted on cradled panel The Menil Collection, Houston. Photo: Paul Hester, Houston.

HOUSTON, TX.- An extraordinary gathering of art historians, curators, and conservationists will gather in Houston on Saturday, October 2 to present and discuss new research into the work of Henri Rousseau. The afternoon symposium – to be held at Jones Auditorium on the University of St. Thomas campus, located two blocks east of the Menil Collection – is free of charge and open to the public.

Born in 1844, the French painter is perhaps one of the most misunderstood of modern artists. Although some of Rousseau’s pictures are among the most famous and beloved of their era (and of art-history classes), debate has abounded for decades about the artist’s methods, techniques, media, and intentions. To this day some consider Rousseau a grandfather of Surrealism, others a precursor of Cubism – while still others have positioned him as the leader of a school of modern primitives. Long acknowledged as a key figure in the evolution of modern painting, Rousseau, regarded as a “naïve” artist, suffered from a general disregard of the physical properties of his work, and his aesthetic objectives have never been well understood.

Fittingly, in 2010 – the centennial year of the artist’s death – Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process challenges received wisdom regarding the creation of his captivating body of work. Marking the culmination of a year-long inquiry by two scholars in residence at the Menil – Katrina Bartlett, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paintings Conservation, and Caitlin Haskell, Vivian L. Smith Foundation Fellow – the interdisciplinary, international symposium will delve into questions about how Rousseau, who was first and foremost a painter, constructed his pictures.

Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process promises to be a stimulating Saturday, laying the groundwork for a new approach to the painter, drawing on conservation science as well as new art-historical insights. Among the works considered will be two unusual Rousseau paintings residing in the Menil Collection, Bonne fête, 1892, and La Sainte Famille, 1905, a singular work of modern sacred art whose attribution has remained in question for decades.

The distinguished company gathering in Houston to present groundbreaking research into Rousseau’s paintings includes conservators, curators, and historians from the Art Institute of Chicago; the Barnes Foundation; Buffalo State College; Courtauld Institute; Fondation Beyeler; J. Paul Getty Museum; Kimbell Art Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Phillips Collection; Rice University; and the University of Texas at Austin.

Menil Collection | Henri Rousseau | Houston |

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