An Exotic Forest By Henri Rousseau

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Woman Walking in an Exotic Forest (1905), created by French artist, Henri Rousseau, is a painting that depicts a woman positioned in the center foreground of the piece, fashioned in lightly coloured attire of the early 20th century. A vibrant forest surrounds the woman to make up the middle and background of the painting, and consists of tall blue flowers, grasses, and trees that carry large orange fruit. Through this specific content, and the stylistic elements of the piece, the painting comes to illustrate the challenges and turmoil of the transition to Modernity – the quality or condition of being modern (OED,1). This thematic component reveals itself through the tension between the periods of Modernity and Classicism, as seen through the central image of the woman, the painting’s scale, and colour palette, along with, the inclusion of Primitive elements in the style, and subject used. As such, this methodology, in the form, and technique of the piece, communicates a larger complexity. Where Modernity refers to the state of being modern, Classicism contrasts this notion as a movement that attempts to harken back to aesthetics, and themes of the “classic” eras, so as to root itself in the past (OED, 3). This piece represents classical elements through the inclusion of the woman. For instance, the woman poses in a structured manner with a hand on the hip much like the classic positions reflected in ancient Greek, and Roman statues, to suggest a regiment of tradition.

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