The paintings of Henri Rousseau (1844–1910), particularly his astonishing jungle dreams, are now so popular that it is difficult to realize how they were originally greeted with ridicule and incomprehension. It was not until Rousseau was championed by the young avant-garde—Picasso, Delaunay, and Kandinsky, among others—that he came to be recognized at his true worth.
One of the most significant of these early admirers was the dealer and art historian Wilhelm Uhde. It was Uhde who put on the first one-man show of Rousseau’s work, and the catalogue he wrote for the occasion is the basis of these Recollections. Much of what we know about Rousseau comes from these pages, which present a portrayal of a man of naivety, humor, gentleness, and total artistic commitment. Uhde returned to his text again and again, refining it and filling out telling details. The version presented here is the final, definitive text, which first appeared after World War I in a translation overseen by Uhde himself.
An introduction by Nancy Ireson sets the Recollections in context, with an overview of Rousseau’s career, the ebb and flow of his reputation, and the part that this polemic and elegiac text played in the creation of a new kind of art.
Wilhelm Uhde (1874–1947) was an art dealer and art historian who put on the first one-man show of Rousseau’s work. Nancy Ireson is an art historian specializing in Rousseau. She helped curate the major exhibition Rousseau: Jungles of Paris (London, Paris, New York), and is the author of Interpreting Rousseau.