French painter, the most celebrated of naive artists.
His nickname refers to the job he held with the Paris Customs Office (1871-93), although he never actually rose to the rank of `Douanier' (Customs Officer). Before this Henri Rousseau had served in the army, and he later claimed to have seen service in Mexico, but this story seems to be a product of his imagination. He took up oil painting as a hobby and accepted early retirement in 1893 so he could devote himself to art.
His other work ranges from the jaunty humor of The Football Players (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1908) to the mesmeric, eerie beauty of The Sleeping Gypsy (MOMA, 1897). Rousseau was buried in a pauper's grave, but his greatness began to be widely acknowledged soon after his death.
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