The Repast of the Lion: Henri Rousseau

The Repast of the Lion: Henri Rousseau

The Repast of the Lion is a 1907 painting by French Naïve and Post-Impressionist artist Henri Rousseau. It is located in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Analysis of The Repast of the Lion

In The Repast of the Lion, Rousseau depicts a lush, jungle setting with a lion in the foreground. The lion is shown crouched over a dead animal appearing to be in the midst of its meal, feasting on what is most likely a crocodile or another type of reptile based on its scaly appearance. The depiction of the lion is imposing and powerful, with a sense of wildness and danger. The background of the painting is filled with dense vegetation, trees, and foliage, creating a dense and mysterious atmosphere.

Rousseau’s painting is characterized by its vivid and exaggerated use of color, with vibrant greens, blues, and yellows dominating the canvas. The colors are used to create a sense of the exotic and otherworldly, which was a hallmark of Rousseau’s style.

The Repast of the Lion is often interpreted as a symbolic representation of the primal and untamed aspects of nature. It invites viewers to contemplate the coexistence of beauty and brutality in the natural world. The lion’s predatory nature is juxtaposed with the lush and inviting surroundings, creating a tension that is both captivating and unsettling.

Rousseau’s work is celebrated for its imaginative and dreamlike quality. He never visited the jungle himself but instead drew inspiration from botanical gardens and illustrations in books, as well is local parks around France. His unique approach to painting, characterized by a lack of formal training and a childlike simplicity, has made The Repast of the Lion an enduring and iconic piece of art. It continues to be a subject of fascination and admiration for art enthusiasts, as it challenges traditional notions of artistic mastery and invites us to explore the mysteries of the wild through a fantastical lens.


Post-Impressionism was an influential art movement that emerged in the late 19th century as a response to and departure from the principles of Impressionism. It encompassed a diverse group of artists who, while sharing some similarities with the Impressionists, sought to break free from the limitations of their style and push the boundaries of artistic expression. Post-Impressionism is characterized by its emphasis on subjective interpretation, color, and form, and it laid the foundation for many modern art movements that followed.

One of the key features of Post-Impressionism was a continued fascination with the play of light and color, similar to the Impressionists. However, Post-Impressionist artists went further in their exploration of these elements. Vincent van Gogh, for example, is known for his intense and emotional use of color, using vivid, swirling brushstrokes to convey the turbulent emotions he experienced. His iconic work Starry Night exemplifies this approach.

Paul Cézanne was another prominent Post-Impressionist artist who focused on reimagining form and structure. His paintings often depicted landscapes and still lifes, but he deconstructed objects into geometric shapes and planes, pioneering a new way of representing three-dimensional space.

Georges Seurat introduced the technique of Pointillism, which involved applying small, distinct dots or points of color to the canvas. This method aimed to achieve a greater vibrancy and optical mixing of colors when viewed from a distance. His masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette” exemplifies this meticulous technique.

Symbolism and subjectivity also played a significant role in Post-Impressionism. Artists like Paul Gauguin and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec explored the use of symbolism and abstraction to convey deeper emotional and intellectual meanings in their work. Gauguin, in particular, sought inspiration from non-Western cultures and used exotic and vivid imagery to convey his personal vision.

Post-Impressionism marked a shift towards greater individualism and personal expression in art. Each artist pursued their unique style, which made the movement diverse and complex. It rejected the notion of objective representation in favor of the artist’s emotional response and interpretation of the world. This emphasis on subjectivity and the innovative use of color, form, and symbolism paved the way for later movements like Fauvism and Expressionism, and it had a profound impact on the development of modern art. Post-Impressionism remains a pivotal chapter in the history of art, leaving a lasting legacy and inspiring generations of artists to come.

Naïve art

Naïve art, also known as “Primitive” or “Folk” art, is a distinct and charming style of visual art that emphasizes simplicity, childlike qualities, and a lack of formal training. It often features a direct, unsophisticated approach to artistic expression, characterized by its raw, unpretentious, and often whimsical nature.

Naïve art emerged as a reaction to the academic and formalized art traditions of the 19th and 20th centuries. It is typically created by self-taught or untrained artists, who lack conventional art education and instead rely on their instincts and innate creativity. This lack of formal training allows for a fresh and unfiltered perspective, resulting in works that are refreshingly uninhibited and free from artistic conventions.

The defining characteristics of Naïve art include simplified, flat, and often distorted perspective. Artists tend to depict subjects with a certain degree of naivety, which gives the art its name. The compositions are straightforward, and the use of color is often bold and unrefined. These artists are not concerned with perfect anatomical proportions or realistic representation but rather with capturing the essence of their subjects in a spontaneous and heartfelt manner.

Naïve art frequently features everyday scenes, rural life, landscapes, and personal experiences. The subjects often reflect the artist’s immediate environment, personal memories, and local culture. As a result, Naïve art often serves as a visual record of cultural traditions and local life, making it a valuable form of folk expression.

Henri Rousseau, known for his lush, jungle scenes like The Repast of the Lion and Tiger and The Equatorial Jungle, is a notable Naïve artist who gained recognition for his imaginative and dreamlike depictions. He had no formal art training, yet his work is celebrated for its childlike wonder and vibrant colors.

Naïve art has had a significant influence on the art world, inspiring many contemporary artists to embrace simplicity, authenticity, and the joy of creating art for the sake of personal expression. The style’s unpretentious and genuine approach continues to captivate audiences and serves as a reminder that artistic creativity knows no boundaries and can be found in the most unexpected places. It celebrates the idea that anyone with a passion for art can become an artist, regardless of formal training or technical expertise.

Henri Rousseau’s Training

Henri Rousseau, the renowned French artist, is a remarkable example of a self-taught painter with no formal artistic training. He was born in 1844 in Laval, France, and worked as a customs post officer for most of his life. Despite his lack of formal education in art, Rousseau had a deep passion for painting that led him to become one of the most distinctive and celebrated artists of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Rousseau’s artistic journey began in his early forties when he started painting in his spare time. He was inspired by visits to the botanical gardens and museums in Paris, where he studied the works of established artists. These experiences fueled his fascination with lush landscapes, exotic plants, and animals, which would become recurring themes in his art.

Rousseau’s lack of traditional training allowed him to develop a unique and unconventional style. His paintings are characterized by a childlike simplicity, vibrant colors, and a dreamlike quality. He was often referred to as a naïve artist because of his unschooled approach.

Despite criticism from the art establishment of his time, Rousseau’s work garnered attention and recognition from fellow artists, including Pablo Picasso. He continued to paint prolifically and gained a loyal following of admirers. His most famous works, like Tropical Landscape and The Repast of the Lion, reflect his distinctive style and imaginative vision.

Henri Rousseau’s Impact on Art History

Henri Rousseau’s impact on art history is multifaceted and profound. His distinctive and imaginative approach to painting made him a pioneer of naïve art, a genre characterized by childlike simplicity, vibrant colors, and a lack of formal training. Rousseau’s work challenged the traditional academic norms of his time and inspired other self-taught artists to embrace a more intuitive and unschooled approach to their craft.

Furthermore, Rousseau’s influence extended to the Primitivism movement, which sought inspiration from non-Western and indigenous art. His bold use of color, flattened perspective, and idealized portrayals of nature and exotic scenes had a significant impact on artists like Pablo Picasso and Paul Gauguin, who were drawn to the unspoiled, primal, and elemental qualities of Rousseau’s art.

In the realm of Modernism, Henri Rousseau’s work was also influential. While it faced criticism from the art establishment, it found a dedicated following among avant-garde artists, including Picasso, who recognized the innovative and groundbreaking qualities of his paintings. Rousseau’s emphasis on personal expression and his rejection of conventional techniques had a profound impact on the development of modern art.

Rousseau’s exploration of dreams and imagination, exemplified in works like The Dream, contributed to the Surrealist movement. Surrealists were inspired by the way Rousseau combined seemingly unrelated elements to create enigmatic and evocative scenes, paving the way for a new era of artistic expression.

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