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Henri Rousseau. The Dream. 1910 1

Oil on canvas, 6' 8 1/2" x 9' 9 1/2" (204.5 x 298.5 cm). Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller

Narrator: Take a few steps back from this painting so you can see the whole thing. Now imagine jumping into the scene.

You’re trudging through the deep, dark jungle! Carefully, you part the tall ferns in the center.

Aaah! Lions! One of them, with fierce, yellow eyes is staring right at you. Quick—roar back at him!

In the jungle you meet all sorts of beasts. Can you find one that might sound like this?

Yep, there’s a bird perched high on a branch of the orange tree… And another up at the top on the left, flapping off with its yellow wings…

How about this critter?

Did you find the elephant, behind the orange tree? Wave your “trunk” and bellow back at him!

Okay, what else would you find in a jungle? How ‘bout a young woman relaxing on a velvet sofa? Whoa, wait a minute—There’s something strange about this place. That’s because you’ve entered into a dream!

The Dream is what the artist Henri Rousseau called his painting. He wrote this poem to go with it:

Actor: Having fallen into a gentle sleep

Yadwigha, in a dream

Heard the sound of a musette

Played by a benevolent musician.

While the moon shone down

Upon the flowers, the green trees,

The wild serpents listened to

The instrument’s merry tunes.

Narrator: Yadwigha is the lady on the couch. But can you find the musician? Look closely, he’s wearing a striped skirt.

Watch out for the wild serpent—He’s toward the bottom—an orange snake slithering through the grass.

Rousseau never actually went to the jungle. In fact, he never traveled far from his home in Paris! He got ideas for paintings like this one from visiting zoos, city gardens, and museums and from his “dreamy” imagination.