Henri Rousseau was known by his contemporaries as "Le Douanier", a humorous-slash-mocking reference to his job as a toll collector in Paris. Self-taught in his art, it was only at the age of 49 that he became a full-time artist. Rousseau's naïve style seldomly granted him any critical recognition, although it was characterized by a wonderful imagination, attention to detail, and vivid colours, resulting in a refreshingly unique take on post-impressionism.
In the late 19th century, Paris' art scene was fascinated by wandering gypsies, the Romany people known in France as bohémiens. This led Rousseau to create a truly unusual portrayal of a woman in the 19th century, an independent artist free to roam the world and follow her heart's desires - very woke M. Rousseau!
With flat planes of rich colour, hard lines and exotic aura, "The Sleeping Gypsy" exudes stillness and peacefulness. The presence of a peculiarly friendly lion further illustrates the dream-like, poetic nature of this work. Rousseau's innocent and unsophisticated style asserted itself as a new kind of modern art.
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