THE LIFE OF ROUSSEAU
From 1886 until his death, Rousseau displayed works annually in the Salon des Indépendants with the exception of two
years. Though his art gradually gained popularity, his dream of becoming a fulltime artist was a financial disaster. He turned
as well to additional interest, writing plays and musical compositions to no avail. Like his father, he racked up debt.
Rousseau’s inadequate pension required subsidizing his income by playing musical instruments on the street, painting
building signs, or teaching art. His surviving daughter, a budding artist, left to live with family. He married his mistress,
Josephine Noury in1899, who died within four years. He then relished in his circle of friends that included Georges Seurat,
Armand Guillaumin, Odilon Redon, Paul Signac, and Paul Gauguin. His admirers were the much younger avant-garde of
Rousseau’s weaknesses were gullibility, exaggeration and fantasy. He never traveled outside France though some claimed he
spent time in Mexico. He mistook sarcasm for complements. His exaggerations earned him the nickname "Le Douanier"
(customs officer) when he ‘enhanced’ his civil career claim. He was, in truth, a less glamourous “gabelou” (tax collector).
In 1907, a musician friend enticed him to participate in bank fraud for which he was convicted but the sentence remanded.
He died at age 66, unable to afford treatment for a leg wound incurred in his studio. Today, Rousseau the man and the
artist are still viewed as an enigma, full of integrity and crafty as a fox.
LATER ADULTHOOD & DEATH: