These Henri Rousseau Art Projects for Kids help us learn more about the artist’s work, his love for jungles and lessons from his life – about never giving up!
“Nothing makes me so happy as to observe nature and to paint what I see.” ~ Henri Rousseau
When we think of someone who’s become an artist, we often think of people who were child prodigies, with their drawings catching someone’s eye. They’ve done a stint at an arts university and struggled till their work gained recognition. They often have rather wild and exciting lives that make for great reading. When you look at the painting below, the wild nature of the art reflects an artist that fits this description.
The painting features a tiger hidden in a jungle that is in the midst of a storm, with trees and plants swaying violently. There is a feeling of tension, like the tiger is preparing to pounce on someone or something. However, what if I told you that this painting was done by a seemingly simple man, with absolutely no training in art?
Who was Henri Rousseau?
Yes, the master of this work of art is Henri Rousseau, a French man who had a life that’s as simple as they come – except for his art! He grew up in a humble home, studied law for a while and then worked as a tax collector. He was no prodigy who was celebrated as a child – he started painting only after the age of 35.
If you thought that that was when he started getting recognition, it wasn’t – quite the opposite, in fact. Rousseau was made fun of by the people of his time, and his work was often rejected by art exhibitions. People said his work was too childish, with no sense of proportion and a very untrained style. One critic even said, “Monsieur Rousseau paints with his feet with his eyes closed“.
Yet, Rousseau’s genius was appreciated by the famous artists of the time, like those no less than Pablo Picasso. Picasso even had a banquet in honor of Rousseau, called Le Banquet Rousseau, which saw the who’s who of the French art scene attend. He was among those who realized the complexity and layers of Rousseau’s paintings, which was hidden by the deceptive simplicity.
Because of his life, Rousseau is someone we, as ordinary people, can relate to. It is also proof that no matter how ordinary we may appear on the outside, there are extraordinary talents hidden within us. Since May is Rousseau’s birthday month, we think it’s the perfect time to learn about this amazing artist with some Henri Rousseau Art Projects for kids. Enjoy!
10 Gorgeous Henri Rousseau Art Projects for Kids
Rousseau loved painting animals, especially animals of tropical jungles like tigers. His paintings are full of layers, with animals hiding behind trees and the moon peeping out from among tree branches. The layers of foliage are very intricate, and are a delight to study in his paintings. Kathy’s Art Project Ideas celebrates this with this artwork of a tiger framed by leaves and flowers.
Henri Rousseau’s portraits are quite characteristic of his style, and it is easy to spot his among other paintings. He invented new styles, which was one reason people of his time had difficulty accepting his work. One of these styles was where he started painting a certain view and then putting in the main subject in the foreground. This project by Leah Newton Art is similar to this style, featuring lots of bright colors reminiscent of a rainforest.
How cute is this art project from Cassie Stephens? It has a certain childlike innocence that reflects the first impressions of a Rousseau painting. Rousseau never went to art school, nor did he have a dedicated teacher. He was a completely self taught painter, which got others to refer to him as ‘naïve’. He took his time to regard art as a profession. Rousseau started painting only after the age of 35, and it was only at the age of 49, that he felt confident enough to retire from his day job and pursue art full time.
Henri Rousseau enjoyed painting jungle life. His animals deviated a little from reality to match the effect he wanted to create. His foliage was lush and thick and the perfect setting for a storm or for a hunter looking for prey. This is the reason that Rousseau’s paintings are considered the first of the ‘Fauves’, a term that has since been used to refer to artists like Henri Matisse. We love how this project from Faber Castell celebrates the spirit of the jungle with all the flora and fauna.
When trying out Henri Rousseau art projects for kids, it helps to have a book to understand the artist better. The fact that Rousseau’s paintings were considered child-like is the exact reason they make for great illustrations for a book! This book by Michelle Markel introduces kids to Rousseau’s most famous paintings, featured in full pages of high quality paper. The text is also quite descriptive and will give young readers an introduction to the artists’ life.
By now you know that Rousseau’s most famous work focuses on jungle life. However, the man never saw a jungle in real life – he never ever traveled outside France! His inspirations were from children’s books, gardens and nurseries. he also listened to tales of people who had visited other countries and seen jungles there. Involve the kids in this story and ask them to fall back on their experiences when doing this project from Art for Small Hands.
There was an art exhibition at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, a prestigious art school, which featured many paintings of big cats by French artist Delacroix. Henri Rousseau wanted to get in with the big names in French art, and decided to paint a jungle with a big cat of his own. This is the story behind his most famous painting, ‘Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!)’. Mrs. T’s First Grade Class shows us how to create our own 3-D pouncing tiger using scratch foam.
If you look at Rousseau’s paintings, you’ll find that there is often a certain symmetry, usually in the foliage. Patterns and shapes in plants are repeated, and they often frame a creature that is fully or partially hidden. He painted the plants with as much attention as he gave to the animals. He visited botanical gardens to understand the vegetation and said that it felt like walking into a dream. Crayola shows us how to go about recreating Rousseau’s spirit in this art of leaves hiding an animal behind it.
Paintbrush Rocket has an art lesson inspired by Rousseau’s famous ‘Tiger in a Tropical Storm’. Apparently, this painting was first rejected by the Academie de peinture et de sculpture, so Rousseau went ahead and submitted it to the Salon de Indépendants’ show, this time renaming it to ‘Surprised!’. Just a lesson in how a name doesn’t matter and you should keep trying different doors till one opens!
Mrs. Porter’s Palette takes inspiration from Rousseau’s portrait landscape style of painting to create this gecko collage. Although Rousseau was an artist, his influence has been over many fields. Wallace Stevens’ and Sylvia Plath have written poetry inspired by Rousseau’s work. Joni Mitchell’s song ‘The Jungle Line’ is based upon a Rousseau painting. What’s more, Rousseau’s work has also inspired the animated movies ‘Kirikou and the Sorceress’ as well as ‘Madagascar’! Who knows, these Henri Rousseau art projects for kids might inspire you to try something totally new!
These Henri Rousseau art projects for kids are certainly fun, but they would be incomplete without learning about the artist’s life. It’s a story of how a man didn’t accept defeat. He never thought it was too late to start painting or too early to retire. He didn’t despair when his paintings got rejected or people made fun of them. Neither did he change his style to ‘fit in’ with the big names of the day. He persisted in honing his craft, stuck to his guns and continued producing good work. Rousseau’s life is a lovely lesson in how hard work leads to success and why it’s important to persevere, no matter what!