He was nicknamed the "Customs Officer" because of his profession, far removed from the art world. Henri Rousseau (1844–1910) was a self-taught painter, often described as naïve and mocked by his contemporaries but admired by the avant-garde of the twentieth century. His very ambitious work, which covers both the historical genre as well as the portrait and the landscape, is populated with exotic visions whose poetry has seduced personalities such as André Breton, Pablo Picasso, and Félix Vallotton.
His naive style is not accidental. The painter appeals to popular imagery, but he also nurtures a great admiration for the precision of academic artists such as Jean-Léon Gérôme and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. But, unlike them, Rousseau does not resort to the laws of the Western perspective. In this way, considered primitive, he praises the myth of innocence at a time when other artists, such as Gauguin, seek a return to the purity of origins.