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Henri Rousseau, called Le Douanier

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Henri Rousseau, called Le Douanier\n\nPortrait de Joseph Brummer (Portrait-paysage)\n\nsigned and dated lower left H Rousseau 1909, oil on canvas\n45 5/8 x 34¾in. (116 x 88.5cm.)\n\nPainted in Spring 1909


When Rousseau exhibited this portrait of Joseph Brummer at the Salon des Indépendants in 1909 he termed it a "portrait-paysage", a genre which Rousseau had initiated with his famous Moi-même, portrait-paysage self-portrait (Certigny 45) which he painted in 1890 and with which he announced to the world his ambition to be considered a grand master of modern painting. In his portrait-paysages the model, often seen full-length, is rendered with great clarity and placed against a landscape background which is generally appropriate to the sitter in both nature and sentiment, and complementary to the pictorial structure of the composition. In the twenty years preceding the Brummer portrait, Rousseau perfected his technique and artistic conception so that this masterpiece represents the culmination of his portraiture, and draws together the various strands of his art into a distillation which was influential for his avantgarde contemporaries and for subsequent generations of artists.

Hungarian by birth, Joseph Brummer (1883-1947) arrived in Paris in the first years of this century to pursue a career as a sculptor. Initially working as a stonemason for Rodin in 1907, Certigny relates that to gain entry to Matisse's atelier for instruction, Brummer,

who was short of money to pay for the lessons, came up with a novel

suggestion; "Pour pouvoir travailler d'après le modèle à l'Academie Matisse il proposa, en paiement, de balayer l'atelier. Le grand coloriste, il va de soi, le dispensa de cette besogne, et l'admit gracieusement parmi ses élèves" (op. cit., p. 586). When his

funds ran out, Brummer took a variety of short-term jobs in order to

survive but gradually found that selling Japanese prints to his fellow artists and avantgarde associates was an increasingly lucrative

occupation. In 1908 he put the first profits of his dealings into

renting a shop at 6 Boulevard Raspail where, alongside the familiar Japanese prints, he displayed the objects of his new passions - African and Oceanic "primitive" sculpture and a few pictures by the "new primitive" Henri Rousseau. It is likely that Brummer met Rousseau through the agency of Max Weber, a fellow student at La Grande Chaumière. This was probably in 1908. Immediately Brummer became one of the first (and one of the very few) dealers or collectors to buy pictures directly from Rousseau. Thus began the relationship which culminated in Brummer commissioning this major portrait from Rousseau early in 1909.

It appears that the picture was painted in the spring of 1909 in

between the two versions of Rousseau's other great portrait picture of the period La Muse inspirant le Poète (Certigny 274, Puschkin

Museum, Moscow; and Certigny 277, Kunstmuseum, Basle). A contemporary photograph shows Rousseau standing proudly, palette in hand, in front

of Brummer's portrait which is displayed alongside the still unfinished second version of La Muse inspirant le Poète (Fig. ). Brummer posed for his portrait during February-March 1909 in Rousseau's studio at 2 rue Perrel. The fauteuil de rotin on which Brummer is seated was part of the furnishings of Rousseau's studio and had been there

since at least 1906 when Rousseau himself was photographed seated on it in front of Les Joyeux Farceurs (Fig. ; Certigny 237). On 6

March Rousseau wrote to Guillaume Apollinaire, the model for the poet

in La Muse inspirant le Poète, "la preuve de ton tableau plait,

c'est que je fais un autre portrait dans le même genre." This other portrait is obviously the portrait of Brummer. Rousseau was in some

urgency to complete it since he intended to exhibit the picture at the Salon des Indépendants. On 19 or 20 March, the two pictures were at Les Serres de l'Orangerie for the jury to decide on the hanging. On 23 March, Rousseau asked Brummer for the money to pay for the frame and stated, "Ton portrait a du succès déjà". As only the

Indépendants jury had seen it by then, Rousseau knew that they

had liked it and planned to hang it in a good position. Rousseau also asked Brummer to come to the vernissage with him on 25 March, two days later. As the other picture being exhibited was La Muse inspirant le Poète, portraying the well-known Apollinaire and Marie Laurencin, it was natural that Brummer's portrait should receive less attention in the as usual less than complimentary notices in the press reviews. Passing references were made by Eon who referred to Rousseau showing, "portraits chaotiques" and by Lestranges who noticed, "délirants portraits d'une naiveté si cocassé." On 2 May 1909, after the closure of the Indépendants, Brummer's portrait was brought back to Rousseau's studio where it remained for at least a month before Brummer paid and took collection. In later years, Brummer was still excited by the picture and remarked "Jamais une oeuvre d'art ancienne ou moderne, n'est passé entre mes mains, qui surpassat cette qualité de noirs."

Sitting for Rousseau was an unusual event as Apollinaire was to recall, "J'ai posé un certain nombre de fois chez le Douanier et avant tout

il mesura mon nez, ma bouche, mes oreilles, mon front, mes mains, mon

corps tout entier, et ces mesures, il les transporta fort exactement

sur sa toile, les réduisant à la dimension du chassis. Pendant ce

temps, pour me récréer, car il est bien ennuyeux de poser, Rousseau me chantait les chansons de sa jeunesse." (M. Hoog in Le Douanier

Rousseau, Paris, 1985, p. 235). Perhaps this recollection is

somewhat simplistic and contributory in part to the myth-making with

which Apollinaire built up the public conception of Rousseau as the

naïve artist. However, it is certainly correct to state that Rousseau took great care in arranging his models and in selecting the pictorial setting. D. Catton Rich wrote that Rousseau's portrait of Joseph Brummer, "one of the last he did, shows his friend and dealer seated in a wicker chair before a background of trees, closely allied to the extravagant foliage of the jungles. It is a mistake to think of such a setting as merely a decorative convention to fill space. For Rousseau the landscape element was quite as important as the figure." (Henri Rousseau, New York, 1946, p. 55). Having the appearance of a theatrical backdrop the background foliage is a creation of Rousseau's imagination designed to complement the character of the sitter and to suit the compositional structure of the picture. The mask-like hieratic features of Brummer's face, rendered with tremendous finesse, resemble to some extent the African sculptures in which he dealt. The insouciant manner in which Brummer holds his cigarette in his right hand adds a bohemian element to the general air of shrewd respectability Brummer radiates. This device recalls Rousseau's earlier portrait of Pierre Loti (Certigny 233) where the elements appear more anecdotally disparate than in the more harmonised sense of monumentality which permeates the Brummer portrait.

The image of Rousseau, the retired "customs officer", as a self-taught Sunday painter was propagated initially by Apollinaire. Like Gauguin, Rousseau came to full-time painting late in life in 1885, at the age of forty. While he was too poor to enrol in formal lessons Rousseau always had a healthy respect for the traditions and teachings of the Salon artists. He took advice from Gérome and Clément who were probably

content to humour such an elderly novice. Rousseau began his painting career under the influence of folk art traditions with their

preoccupation with high surface finish, minute precision and rigid

construction. This limited repertoire of visual signals was gradually

developed into a highly personal style which set Rousseau apart from

his avantgarde contemporaries and from the Salon artists he so

admired. D. C. Rich observed, "his approach was far from literal.

Inspired by his vision he arbitrarily rewove the appearance of nature

to suit his purpose. At the end he was completely in command of his

style...Rousseau's technique has now become free and without apparent

labour. Occasionally a retouching shows where he has altered a branch or inserted a leaf but the sureness of execution matches the sureness

of conception. While still preserving the effect of precise detail

these canvases are mostly finished in a broad painter-like stroke."

(op. cit., p. 64). The decidedly frontal pose of Joseph Brummer in this picture and the unusual device of portraying the sitter full- length on a chair, was perhaps inspired by Cézanne's portrait of Achille Emperaire (Musée d'Orsay, Paris) which Rousseau saw at

the great Cézanne memorial exhibition of 1907 at which Rousseau

remarked of Cézanne's pictures, "You know, I could finish all these


A passionate artist who lived only for his art, Rousseau was celebrated by his avantgarde contemporaries (who included Brummer) for his

primitivism. Alfred Jarry, born like Rousseau in Laval, was the first to call Rousseau a primitive and saw distinct parallels in his art with the works of the Italian and Flemish pre-Renaissance primitive artists. At that time the term primitive equally came to be applied to the

exotic sculptures of African tribal art and the archaic forms of

Classical Egyptian, Grecian or Roman art. Rousseau himself did not

care for tribal or classical art but his simplicity and innocence of

artistic conception was perceived as being closely allied in spirit.

In contrast, Rousseau saw himself as a completely modern artist

essaying modern subject matter in a personal rather than a primitive

style. When commenting to Picasso on a picture of the Demoiselles

d'Avignon period Rousseau remarked, "You, Pablo and I are the two

greatest artists of the age, you in the Egyptian style and I in the

modern." For Joseph Brummer it was primarily the exotic qualities in

Rousseau's art that appealed, "Pour ce Magyar [Brummer], le Douanier

parâit avoir été une sorte de nègre blanc, puisqu'il étendait à ses oeuvres son goût des idoles africaines." (Certigny, op.

cit., p. 586).

While the Brummer portrait cannot be considered a jungle picture it is interesting that as a background for the "art nègre" dealer Rousseau has selected a rich tapestry of variegated trees, foliage and fauna. Rousseau never went to Mexico (another of Apollinaire's myths), he relied on visits to the Jardin des Plantes in Paris and on his own imagination to create his jungle fauna. He made some 26 jungle pictures in all, mainly executed between 1904-1910. "Rousseau réinventé sa flore, et ne fournit en aucune façon la description d'un paysage plausible. Partant d'éléments qu'il dispose à la

fantasie, avec les changements d'echelle, les 'erreurs' de proportions, les invraisemblances de mise en place, il aboutit à une cohérence

supérieure, tout comme chez les surréalistes ses admirateurs." Precedents for the pictorial juxtaposition of animals with jungle or exotic locations could be found in the art of Bresdin, Delacroix, Gérome and Ingres, all artists whom Rousseau admired and wished to emulate.

Rousseau's own exotic iconography was one of the features that attracted the young avantgarde artists of the first decade of this century during their drive towards modernism. Although this aspect also brought him the label of being a primitive, and therefore apart from the avantgarde circle, he was actually very much in the mainstream of post-impressionist developments. The 1890s saw a reaction against

the purely instinctive and observational art of Impressionism. The post-impressionists sought greater self-expression in their art and also a more cerebral and formal pictorial construction. Rousseau's own symbolist and poetic interests, his flat, archaistic forms and expressive content allied him directly with contemporaneous post-impressionist developments.

By 1908 Rousseau had become a celebrated figure in the Montparnasse

avantgarde circles. Since he did not care for attending cafés for

long discussions with his younger artistic colleagues, he started his

own "soirées familiales et artistiques" which became a regular

feature of the last few years of his life. Others present included Brummer, Apollinaire, Delaunay, Soffici, Picasso, Vlaminck, Brancusi, Laurencin, Salmon, Wilhelm Uhde, Serge Férat, Felix Fénéon and many others. The evenings consisted of a relatively spartan banquet at which the invitees were formally seated, followed by short and varied

performances of music and theatrical excerpts by those present. For the younger artists, the older Rousseau became a sort of bridge with earlier art, a simplifying force within the major stylistic transitions of the period. Picasso collected several works by Rousseau and was later to call the Portrait de Femme (Certigny 75) which he owned, "une oeuvre de penetration, de décision et de clarté françaises...l'un des portraits psychologiques français les plus revélateurs." For Delaunay it was Rousseau's powers as a colorist

that were the most remarkable, "les noirs sont des espaces sans

lumière qui agissent sur l'oeil comme des couleurs prismatiques en

rapports inégaux. Les noirs brillent et vivent dans les milliers de verts qui se groupent en formant arbres, taillis, forêts. Rousseau

ne copie pas l'effet extèrieur d'un arbre; il crée un ensemble

intérieur et rythmique avec une expression vraie, grave, essentielle d'un arbre et de ses feuilles en rapport avec la forêt. Il

multiplie les contrastes en additionnant les gammes de vert d'une

richesse qui atteste sa connaissance quasi-scientifique du métier."

(L'Amour de l'Art, Paris, 1920). It was Picasso who gave the

celebrated "Banquet du Douanier Rousseau" in honour of Rousseau at his studio in Le Bateau Lavoir in November 1908. In Blasco Alarçon's later picture of the event, the Rousseau picture owned by Picasso is displayed in a prominent position over the thronelike chair reserved for Rousseau. Brummer was there and it is tempting to identify him as being seated four to Rousseau's left. Other guests were Leo and Gertrude Stein, Braque, Max Jacob, Apollinaire, Laurencin, Salmon, Raynal and many others. The evening was a symbol of the respect Rousseau engendered amongst the poets, artists and collectors of the Montparnasse circle.

Brummer did not keep his portrait for more than three years as he left Paris in 1912 to go to New York to open an art gallery which was later to become world famous. In Paris he left the gallery at Faubourg St.

Honoré in the hands of his younger brothers, Ernest and Imre, who had come over from Hungary to join Joseph in 1908. Joseph's initial

success in handling tribal art in Paris was considerable. J.-L.

Paudrat writes, "It was Joseph Brummer who, beyond the small group of

artists who were its first discoverers, contributed to the development of an interest in what was called "art nègre" and moreover ensured

its diffusion before World War I in a fair number of European

recitals." (Primitivism in 20th Century Art, New York, 1984, p.

143). Brummer was responsible for introducing Apollinaire and Paul

Guillaume to tribal art, he also sold Greek sculpture to Rodin and

formed the remarkable collection of Negro art assembled by Karl Ernst

Osthaus. His enthusiasm for his subject stretched beyond dealing in its artefacts to organising pioneering exhibitions of tribal art in

European museums and to financing the first major book devoted to the

aesthetics of African art, Neger plastik by Carl Einstein

(completed by 1912 but not published until 1915). Between the Wars when his gallery was established in New York, Joseph Brummer was instrumental in shaping the collections of celebrated collectors such as Frank Burty Haviland, W. Randolph Hearst, Bradley Martin, Greville Winthrop, Henry Walters and many others. Alfred Barr was to call him "the greatest of American art dealers". The renown of the Brummer Gallery for handling works as diverse as sculpture, metalwork and carvings from classical antiquity until the Modern period spread far and wide and the links with major museums were always close. "Many art objects were obtained for the Metropolitan (over 400 objects), The Cloisters, the Louvre and other leading museums in America and Europe. Some of the outstanding acquisitions made by these museums in the twenties, thirties and forties owed their rediscovery to the extraordinarily sensitive 'Brummer eye'. Joseph Brummer also indulged his passion for modern painting by bringing to the New York gallery during the twenties and thirties exhibitions by Brancusi, Derain, Laurens, Matisse, Rouault and Seurat. On his death in 1947 he bequeathed works of art to the Metropolitan Museum while another section was sold at auction in 1949. In 1974 there was an exhibition of the Brummer Collection at the Metropolitan Museum. W. H. Forsyth, on the occasion of this exhibition, wrote an article celebrating the great artistic contribution of Joseph and Ernest Brummer to the Arts of Europe and America. ("The Brummer Brothers: An Instinct for the Beautiful", Art News, New York, Oct. 1974, pp. 106-107).


Henri Rousseau, called Le Douanier


Signed and dated lower left H Rousseau 1909, oil on canvas




Signed and dated lower left H Rousseau 1909, oil on canvas


Paris, Les Grandes Serres de l'Orangerie, 25ième Salon de la Société des Artistes Indépendants, 25 March-2 May 1909, no. 1386 (as Portrait (paysage) "appartient à M. B.", not for sale)

Paris, Galerie Paul Rosenberg, Henri Rousseau, exposition posthume, June 1923, no. 8

New York, Marie Harriman Gallery, Henri Rousseau, Jan.-Feb. 1931,

no. 5

London, The Leicester Galleries, Fifty Years of Portraits, 1935,

no. 121

Paris, Salle Royale, Les Maîtres populaires de la Réalité,

1937, no. 9. This exhibition also travelled to Zürich, Kunsthaus

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Henri Rousseau, March-May 1942. This exhibition also travelled to Chicago, The Art Institute, Jan.-Feb. 1942

New York, Wildenstein & Co., 6 Post-Impressionists, Aug.-Sept. 1948, no. 42

New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Henri Rousseau, Nov.-Dec. 1951, no. 22

Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Henri Rousseau, 1844-1910, Exposition de son cinquantenaire, Feb.-April 1961, no. 66 (illustrated)

Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Das naive Bild der Welt, 1961, no. 169. This exhibition also travelled to Frankfurt and Hanover

Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Le Monde des Naïfs, 1964, no. 24 (illustrated). This exhibition also travelled to Rotterdam, Musée Boymans-van Beuningen; and Brussels

Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, The Heroic Years, Paris 1908-1911, Oct.-Dec. 1965

Zürich, Kunsthaus, Die Kunst der Naiven, Jan.-March 1975, no. H75 (illustrated p. 183). This exhibition also travelled to Munich, Haus der Kunst

Paris, Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Les Douanier Rousseau, Sept. 1984-Jan. 1985, no. 56 (illustrated in colour p. 233). This exhibition also travelled to New York, Museum of Modern Art, Feb.-June 1985


45 5/8 x 34¾in. (116 x 88.5cm.)


Three Letters from Rousseau to Brummer in Les Soirées de Paris, Paris, 15 Jan. 1914, pp. 50-52

W. Uhde, Henri Rousseau, Dresden, 1921, p. 88

"Echos de l'Hôtel Drouot", in L'Esprit Nouveau, Paris, 1921, p. 1081

H. Kolle, Henri Rousseau, Leipzig, 1922 (illustrated pl. II)

A. Basler, Henri Rousseau, Paris, 1927 (illustrated pl. VII)

C. Zervos, Rousseau, Paris, 1927, no. 95 (illustrated; listed as belonging to Miestchaninoff)

Le Figaro Artistique, Paris, 19 Jan. 1928

A. Fage, Le Collectionneur de peintures Modernes, Paris, 1930, p. 23 (illustrated pl. XXIII)

D. Catton Rich, Henri Rousseau, New York, 1942, pp. 52, 55, 58 (illustrated p. 59)

Roch Grey (Baronne d'Oettingen), Henri Rousseau, Paris, 1943, no. 16 (illustrated)

D. Cooper, "Henri Rousseau: artiste peintre", in The Burlington Magazine, London, Vol. LXXXV, July 1944 (illustrated p. 160)

D. Catton Rich, Henri Rousseau, New York, 1946 (illustrated p. 59) W. Uhde, Rousseau (le Douanier), Lausanne, 1948, p. 23 (illustrated p. 49)

R. Shattuck, The Banquet Years, New York, 1958, pp. 65, 69, 75, 283, no. 50 (illustrated pl. 5)

J. Bouret, Henri Rousseau, Neuchâtel, 1961 (illustrated in colour pl. 46)

H. Certigny, La Vérité sur le Douanier Rousseau, Paris, 1961, pp. 355, 374-5, 380

D. Vallier, Henri Rousseau, Paris, 1961, no. 134 (illustrated)

A. Salmon, H. Rousseau, Paris, 1962 (illustrated in colour p. 73)

J. Bouret, Henri Rousseau, London, 1963 (illustrated in colour pl. 11)

I. Devenyi, "Jozsef Brummer" in Muveszet, Jan. 1968, p. 16 (illustrated)

D. Vallier, L'Opera completa di Rousseau il Doganiere, Milan, 1969, pp. 108-109, no. 22 (illustrated in colour pl. LI)

S. Leonard, Henri Rousseau and Max Weber, New York, 1970, p. 36

A. Jakovsky, "Le Douanier Rousseau savait-il peindre?", in Médecine de France, no. 218, Paris, 1971 (illustrated)

L. & O. Bihalji-Merin, Henri Rousseau, Geneva, 1972 (illustrated in colour p. 105)

P. Descargues, Le Douanier Rousseau, Geneva, 1972 (illustrated in colour p. 105)

M. Greene, Henri Rousseau, New York, 1975 (illustrated in colour no. 32)

C. Keay, Henri Rousseau, London, 1976, p. 164 (illustrated no. 75) Y. Le Pichon, Le monde du Douanier Rousseau, Paris, 1981 (illustrated in colour p. 79)

H. Leppien, Der zerbrochene Kopf, exhibition catalogue, Hamburg, 1981 (illustrated p. 67)

E. H. Gombrich, Histoire de l'Art, Paris, 1982 (illustrated p. 468) C. Stabenow, La Jungle de Henri Rousseau, Paris, 1984, pp. 11, 21

J.-L. Paudrat, "From Oceania", in Primitivism in 20th Century Art (ed. W. Rubin), New York, 1988, p. 144 (illustrated p. 143)

C. Stabenow, Henri Rousseau, 1844-1910, Cologne, 1991 (illustrated in colour p. 72)

Y. Aoyama and Y. Fukushima, Fukushima Shigetaro and his Role in Post-War Painting in Japan, exh. cat., Yamaguchi, 1991, p. 124 (illustrated p. 130)

C. Giraudon, Paul Guillaume et les Peintres du XXe Siècle, Paris, 1993 (illustrated p. 13)


Joseph Brummer, Paris, 1909 (commissioned from Rousseau and received from the Artist circa June 1909, price 300 Frs.)

Wilhelm Uhde, Paris, 1912, bought from Brummer through the agency of Adolphe Basler for 500 Frs. (according to Brummer's recollection to Henri Bing in 1936)

Sequestered by the French Government during the 1914-1918 War

Sale of the sequestered property of Wilhelm Uhde, Hôtel Drouot (expert Léonce Rosenberg), Paris, 30 May 1921, lot 56 (illustrated; estimate 10,000 Frs., sold for 11,400 Frs. to Miestchaninoff)

Oscar Miestchaninoff, Paris; sale, Hôtel Drouot (experts Hessel and Bignou), Paris, 16 Dec. 1927, lot 21 (illustrated; 98,000 Frs. to Fukushima)

Fukushima Shigetaro ("Baron Fukushima"), Paris, bought at the above sale, probably sold prior to return to Tokyo in 1933

Galerie Raphael Gérard, Paris, by 1936

Dr. Franz Meyer, Zürich, bought through Henri Bing in 1936 for 75,000 Frs.; and thence by descent

The Museum of Modern Art, New York (on loan 1939-1962)

The Museum of Fine Art, Houston (on loan 1962-1965)

Kunsthalle, Hamburg (on loan 1965-1969)

Kunstmuseum, Basle (on loan 1969-1990)

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.