Lot 24
  • 24

Henri Rousseau (dit le Douanier)

1,250,000 - 1,750,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Henri Rousseau (dit le Douanier)
  • Heureux Quatuor
  • Signed H Rousseau (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas


E.R. Weiss
Galerie Flechtheim, Düsseldorf (January 15, 1914)
Edith von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Berlin and Leipzig (by 1922 and until at least 1926)
(probably) Paul von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Berlin
Countess Else Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Kesselstett (née Lavergne-Paguilhen), Berlin and Switzerland (by 1938)
Buchholz Gallery (Curt Valentin), New York
Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney (acquired from the above on December 12, 1949)


Paris, 18ème Salon de la Société des Artistes Indépendants, 1902, no. 1538
Berlin, XXIV Berliner Secession, 1912, no. 227
Düsseldorf, Galerie Alfred Flechtheim, XIX Jahrhundert, 1913
Berlin, Galerie Flechtheim, Henri Rousseau, 1926, no. 7
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Le nu dans la peinture d’aujourd’hui, 1932
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Henri Rousseau, 1951, no. 9
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Henri Rousseau dit le Douanier, 1961, no. 35
London, The Tate Gallery, The John Hay Whitney Collection, 1960-61, no. 60
Washington, D.C., The National Gallery of Art, The John Hay Whitney Collection, 1983, no. 27
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais; New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Henri Rousseau, 1984-85, no. 22
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection and the National Gallery of Art, The Pastoral Landscape: The Legacy of Venice and the Modern Vision, 1988-89, no. 117


Le Petit Parisian, March 29, 1902
Fernand Hauser, L'echo de Paris, March 30, 1902
René-Albert Fleury, L'effort, Toulouse, June 15 to July 15, 1902
Fagus, La revue blanche, Paris, April 15, 1902
François Charles, L'ermitage, Paris, 1902
Henry Huot, L'enclopédie contemporaine illustreé, Paris, April 20, 1902
Dodici opere di Rousseau, Florence, 1914, illustrated
Guillaume Apollinaire, Les soirées de Paris, January 15, 1914, illustrated p. 54
Wilhelm Uhde, Henri Rousseau, Düsseldorf, 1914, illustrated pl. 11
Roch Grey, Action, no. 7, May 1921, illustrated
Roch Grey, Henri Rousseau, Rome, 1922, illustrated pl. 18
Helmet Kolle, Henri Rousseau, Leipzig, 1922, illustrated pl. 10
Adolphe Basler, Henri Rousseau, Paris, 1927, illustrated pl. XLIX
Christian Zervos, Henri Rousseau, Paris, 1927, illustrated pl. 39
Cahiers d’art, no. 6-7, Paris, 1932, illustrated p. 299
Douglas Cooper, unpubished catalogue raisonné on Rousseau, 1938, no. 140
Roch Grey, Henri Rousseau, Paris, 1946, illustrated pl. 27
André Legard, Le nu dans la painture Française, Paris, 1947, illustrated pl. 55
Lo Duca, Henri Rousseau dit le Douanier, Paris, 1951, illustrated p. 5
Jean Bouret, Henri Rousseau, Neuchâtel, 1961, no. 19, illustrated p. 97
Dora Vallier, Henri Rousseau, Paris, 1961, illustrated pl. 76
Dora Vallier, L'opera completa di Rousseau il Doganiere, Milan, 1969, no. 129, illustrated pl. 21 and p. 100
Dora Vallier, La revue de l'art, no. 7, Paris, 1970, p. 92
Yann le Pichon, The World of Henri Rousseau, New York, 1982, illustrated p. 36
Henri Certigny, Le douanier Rousseau en son temps, vol. 2, Tokyo, 1984, no. 178, illustrated p. 365

Catalogue Note

Heureux Quatuor was first exhibited at the Salon des Indépendents in 1902. Rousseau clearly attached great importance to the painting as an annotated copy of the catalogue shows that it was priced at 2000 francs, far more than any of his other paintings that were exhibited in the same Salon. Although Rousseau exhibited in every Salon des Indépendents except those of 1899 and 1900 through the year of his death in 1910, he did not harbor the adversarial feelings towards the official art world that characterized so many of his fellow exhibitors. In a brief autobiography written in 1895, he described how “he was obliged at first, in view of his parent’s lack of means, to follow a career different from that in which his artistic tastes called him. Therefore it was not until 1885 that he made his debut in Art after many disappointments, alone and without any master but nature and some advice from Gerôme and Clément. His first two creations exhibited were sent to the Salon des Champs Elysées and were entitled Carnival Evening and Sunset” (Dora Vallier, Henri Rousseau, New York, 1961, pp. 59-60).

One of the few depictions of nudes in Rousseau’s oeuvre, Heureux Quatuor is noteworthy for its idyllic tone and for its curious updating of themes that had become clichés in much contemporary academic painting. Dora Vallier proposed Gerôme’s Innocence as an important source (see fig. 1). There may also be references to Perugino’s Apollo and Marsyas in the Louvre (see fig. 2) and the child may depend on a figure from the Choir by Donatello in the Duomo Museum. As Michel Hoog has commented: “Like any true creator, he (Rousseau) brings together iconographic elements and formal procedures to make the meaning explicit. Unspoiled nature like that of the Garden of Eden, delicate nuances, such as the flower garlands, the poses of the figures, and the choice of accessories all refer back, through Gerôme (who furnished only a schema and an idea), to earlier representations of the Earthly Paradise or the Golden Age, particularly the evocations of Poussin, which Rousseau would have seen” (Henri Rousseau, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1985, p. 150).

Rousseau owed much to two generations of literary figures, Alfred Jarry in the last decade of the nineteenth century and Guillaume Apollinaire in the first decades of the twentieth, in the development of the Rousseau “legend.” As innovators in another field, they perhaps were better placed than his fellow artists to appreciate the true originality of his style. Many of the leading figures of the avant-garde – Pissarro, Degas, Redon, Gauguin, and Toulouse-Lautrec –commented on his work in favorable terms although, as Carolyn Lanchner and William Rubin have commented, “it remained for the first generation of painters of the next generation to see Roussseau’s art as relevant to their own” (Carolyn Lanchner and William Rubin, “Henri Rousseau and Modernism” in Henri Rousseau, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1985, p. 40).

Situating his emblematic nude figures in a freely painted, sylvan landscape, Rousseau evoked the ideal world that Matisse was to explore in his masterpiece of 1905-06, Le Bonheur de vivre. It as one of his rare excursions into the world of allegory, quite distinct in character from his explorations of the modern world (see fig. 3) or the lush jungles of his imagination (see fig. 4), immeasurably enlivened by the presence of the dog who lifts his head and seems to join in the music.

1. Léon Gerôme, Innocence, 1852, oil on canvas, Musée de Tarbes

2. Perugino, Apollo and Marsyas, 1961, oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris

3. Henri Rousseau, Joueurs de Football, 1908, oil on canvas, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

4. Henri Rousseau, Negre attaque par un jaguar, 1910, oil on canvas, Basel, Kunstmuseum