The critic Gustave Coquiot wrote that Rosseau had "such style, such inventiveness, such a rare deployment of qualities; and above all he offers such a love, such personal generosity, such a gift of his naked heart, such absence of falsehood, of insincerity, that we can rightly speak of Rousseau’s contribution to painting as both generous and unique."
Henri Rousseau was born into a middle-class family in the town of Laval in northwest France on 21st May 1844. Following his schooling in Laval, he was then employed by a law firm before being enlisted in the army. In 1868, Rousseau left the army and moved to Paris, where he assumed the role of customs officer at the entrance to the city. Although he painted in his spare time, it wasn’t until he was 49 that he gave up his career to become a full-time artist.
Completed by Rousseau in about 1900, this painting shows his vision of Parisian suburbia and is pervaded with an air of mystery. Vue Des Environs De Paris plays with perspective. It guides the eye into the distance using the rhythmic progressions of windows and fences on either side of the street. The artist's alternative approach led him to be regarded as a highly innovative painter whose work was respected by artists including Pablo Picasso and Robert Delaunay, and the Surrealists.
Art historian Götz Adriani says of Rousseau, "Painting helped him to step out of an almost unseen existence, to make the inconspicuous worth seeing and to obtain the remote from the familiar. As an artist, he was able to convert the everyday into the unusual, to bring fantasy and extreme precision together in a dialectic tension." Many of Rousseau’s signature paintings depicted human figures or wild animals and this was no exception.