Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process
Henri Rousseau Bonne fête (Happy Birthday), 1892The Menil Collection, HoustonPhoto: Paul Hester, Houston
A Menil Symposium
Saturday, October 2, 2010, 2-6.30 p.m. Jones Auditorium, University of St. Thomas
“But what, ah! What is Henri Rousseau?”—Elisabeth Luther Cary, 1931
Over the years many have attempted to answer the question posed by Elisabeth Luther Cary, “What is Henri Rousseau?” Some have called the artist a grandfather of Surrealism, others a precursor of Cubism, while still others have positioned him as the leader of a school of “modern primitives.” But while the question has vexed generations of art lovers, the most apparent answer has hardly been considered: Henri Rousseau was a painter, a maker of pictorial compositions whose aesthetic objectives have never been well understood. Fittingly, in the centennial year of the artist’s death, Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process probes Rousseau’s pictures to challenge decades of received wisdom about the artist and begin to understand how he created his captivating body of work.
Born in 1844, Rousseau has long been acknowledged as a key figure in the evolution of modern painting, but his reputation as a “naïve” artist has led to a general disregard of his techniques and the physical properties of his work. The international, interdisciplinary Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process promises to lay the groundwork for a new approach to the painter, drawing on conservation science as well as new art-historical insights.
The afternoon symposium will explore unanswered questions surrounding Rousseau and his paintings – including the two surprising specimens residing in the Menil, Bonne fête (1892) and La Sainte Famille (1905), a singular work of modern sacred art whose attribution has remained in question for decades.
Leading the symposium will be Katrina Bartlett, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paintings Conservation, and Caitlin Haskell, Vivian L. Smith Foundation Fellow, who since last fall have worked in collaboration with conservators and curators from many institutions worldwide. Availing themselves of the museum’s extensive research resources and state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, Bartlett and Haskell have delved below the surface of Rousseau’s paintings; with Henri Rousseau: Paint + Process they will culminate their year-long inquiry into the material and technical aspects of the artist’s work.
The distinguished company gathering in Houston on October 2 to discuss ground-breaking research into Rousseau’s paintings includes conservators, curators, and historians from the Art Institute of Chicago; the Barnes Foundation; Courtauld Institute; Fondation Beyeler; J. Paul Getty Museum; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Phillips Collection; Rice University; and the University of Texas at Austin.
Attending the Symposium. Admission to the symposium is free. Jones Auditorium (Yoakum Blvd. at Sul Ross St.) is located on the main campus of UST, between the Menil and Montrose Blvd. Free parking is available on the streets around the Menil and the University of St. Thomas, in the Menil’s main parking lot (W. Alabama at Mulberry), and in the lot west of the Link-Lee Mansion (W. Alabama at Yoakum). Paid parking ($2) in the Moran Center Parking Garage (W. Alabama at Graustark).
Sponsored by the Vivian L. Smith Foundation.