Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process

Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process

The Menil Collection

Henri Rousseau, Bonne fête (Happy Birthday), 1892.
Oil on cardboard mounted on cradled panel.

September 22, 2010

Henri Rousseau
Paint + Process

A Menil Symposium

Saturday, October 2, 2010, 2:00-6:30 p.m.
Jones Auditorium, University of St. Thomas, Houston
FREE and Open to the Public


Scholars to present new findings on the artist’s media and methods

Sponsored by the Vivian L. Smith Foundation

An extraordinary gathering of art historians, curators, and conservators will gather in Houston on Saturday, October 2 to present and discuss new research into the work of Henri Rousseau. The afternoon symposium—to be held at Jones Auditorium on the University of St. Thomas campus, located two blocks east of the Menil Collection—is free of charge and open to the public.

Born in 1844, the French painter is perhaps one of the most misunderstood of modern artists. Although some of Rousseau’s pictures are among the most famous and beloved of their era (and of art-history classes), debate has abounded for decades about the artist’s methods, techniques, media, and intentions. To this day some consider Rousseau a grandfather of Surrealism, others a precursor of Cubism—while still others have positioned him as the leader of a school of modern primitives. Long acknowledged as a key figure in the evolution of modern painting, Rousseau, regarded as a “naïve” artist, suffered from a general disregard of the physical properties of his work, and his aesthetic objectives have never been well understood.

Fittingly, in 2010—the centennial year of the artist’s death—Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process challenges received wisdom regarding the creation of his captivating body of work. Marking the culmination of a year-long inquiry by two scholars in residence at the Menil, who will lead the symposium—Katrina Bartlett, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paintings Conservation, and Caitlin Haskell, Vivian L. Smith Foundation Fellow—the interdisciplinary, international symposium will delve into questions about how Rousseau constructed his pictures.

Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process promises to be a stimulating Saturday, laying the groundwork for a new approach to the painter, drawing on conservation science as well as new art-historical insights. Among the works considered will be two unusual Rousseau paintings residing in the Menil Collection, Bonne fête, 1892, and La Sainte Famille, 1905, a singular work of modern sacred art whose attribution has remained in question for decades.

The distinguished company gathering in Houston to present groundbreaking research into Rousseau’s paintings includes conservators, curators, and historians from the Art Institute of Chicago; the Barnes Foundation; Buffalo State College; Courtauld Institute; Fondation Beyeler; J. Paul Getty Museum; Kimbell Art Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Phillips Collection; Rice University; and the University of Texas at Austin.

Saturday October 2, 2010
2:00-6:30 p.m.
Jones Auditorium, University of St. Thomas

(2 blocks east of the Menil, at 3910 Yoakum; for directions
and free-parking information, visit www.menil.org)

Welcome and opening remarks by Josef Helfenstein, Director, the Menil Collection, and Pierre Grandjouan, Consul General of France. Speakers include Stephanie D’Alessandro, Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago; Gordon Hughes, Mellon Assistant Professor in the Department of Art History at Rice University; Nancy Ireson, an author of the exhibition catalogue “Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris” (2005) and Schroder Foundation Curator of Paintings, the Courtauld Gallery; Jay Krueger, senior conservator of modern paintings at the National Gallery of Art; Richard Shiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art at the University of Texas at Austin; Yvonne Szafran, department head, Paintings Conservation, J. Paul Getty Museum.

For more information
please contact the press office, 713.535.3170, or press@menil.org

*Image above:
The Menil Collection, Houston.
Photo by Paul Hester, Houston.

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September 22, 2010

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