Visual Descriptions

Henri Rousseau. The Dream. 1910 77

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

Narrator 1: 7–7 The Dream. Painted in 1910 by the French artist Henri Rousseau, 1844–1910. Oil on canvas, 6 feet 8 inches high by 9 feet wide. 204 x 298 cm.

Narrator 2: This large painting depicts a lush jungle with a diverse array of trees, tropical plants and wild animals. It is made up of flat overlapping shapes like a dense collage, creating a sense of shallow space. The scene is somewhat dark, but there is enough light to see the abundance of plant and wild life. Through the leaves we can see a hint of pale blue sky along the top of the painting and in the upper right, there’s a full moon shining.

The lower left quadrant of the painting is filled with a curvaceous nude woman reclining on a couch. The woman’s body is oriented toward the viewer. She looks to her left—the viewer’s right—her face in profile. Her left arm rests on the rounded wooden edge of the dark burgundy couch. Her long waist–length brown hair falls in two loose braids over her right shoulder, covering her right breast, while her left breast is exposed. A gentle light accentuates her shapely body; the pinkish hue of her skin contrasts with the dark velvety couch.

Large long–stemmed flowers—seven in full bloom and four with closed petals—surround the couch. They are in soft shades of blue, lavender and rose and have a flat and exaggerated appearance, with each pointy petal clearly articulated. Just above the flowers, in the upper left corner of the painting, is a mass of large dark green almond–shaped leaves and intertwining tree branches. A gray bird with extended tangerine–colored wings—perhaps a bird of paradise—emerges from the foliage. The bird is perched on a branch in profile facing right, echoing the pose of the woman whose head is two feet directly below.

Within this cluster of trees, below the bird and behind the couch, is a gray elephant. He peeks from behind the branches with only his head and curled trunk in view—the rest of his body obscured by vegetation. He, too, is in profile, but he’s looking left, possibly at the woman. Above him, towards the middle of the composition, is an orange tree, its branches filled with fruit and spiny green leaves. A bluish–black bird with long tail feathers and an orange underbelly sits on a branch in profile, facing to the right, silhouetted against the patch of blue sky behind him. Like many of the objects in this painting, the bird appears cut out, with distinct edges and a flattened form.

Large green plants with long spindly leaves dominate the right side of the painting, with a few of the large lavender and rose–colored flowers scattered about. A woman with brown hair and brownish–black skin stands just to the right of center. Her figure is almost lost within the depths of the jungle, except for the whites of her eyes as she stares out at the viewer, the golden flute she plays, and her short skirt with horizontal blue, red, brown, yellow and gray stripes. A brown monkey hangs from a leafy green tree just behind her. Just below the flute player are a wide–eyed lioness and lion peeking out from the low–lying plants. The lioness, on the left, looks over quizzically at the nude woman; the lion, on the right crouches down, staring directly at the viewer. To the right of him, in the lower right corner of the painting, a black snake with a salmon–pink belly slithers toward the woman on the couch. A variety of broad–leafed vegetation runs along the bottom of the canvas, framing this scene.

Narrator 1: To hear the Collection Tour audio on this work, press 5–3–0.

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