What is the imaginative lure of the jungle?

Posted February 17, 2012 1:12 pm  

Henri Rousseau was a tax collector and self-taught painter who never left Paris and never saw a jungle, taking inspiration instead from Paris’ hothouse botanical gardens. “When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands,” he was quoted as saying, “it seems to me that I enter into a dream.”


What is it about jungles that evokes a dream-world? Is the teeming life, the sensual, sexual—steamy, fecund, wet—lushness, the undercurrent of threat and violence, the remove from our daily lives?


Another late nineteenth century painter, Martin Johnson Heade, an American landscape and still life painter, traveled to Central and South America to paint small, carefully-observed, atmospheric works of tropical birds and foliage. While Rousseau was painting in Paris’ Jardin des Plantes, Heade was at work in the jungles of Brazil, Nicaragua, and Jamaica. All the same, Heade’s paintings seem almost as dreamlike and unreal as Rousseau’s. 




topics: , ,

share    site feed

Comments are closed.