“The woman asleep on the couch is dreaming she has been transported into the forest, listening to the sounds from the instrument of the enchanter,” Rousseau wrote of this enigmatic painting. He sought to explain his insertion of a musician and a reclining female nude into a moonlit jungle full of exotic foliage and wildlife inspired by his visits to Paris’s Jardin des Plantes, a combined botanical garden and zoo. The self-taught painter was a crucial precedent for Surrealist artists like Salvador Dalí and René Magritte, who also relied on incongruous combinations and dream imagery to create mysterious, unforgettable pictures.
Gallery label from 2019
Although Rousseau completed more than twenty-five jungle paintings in his career, he never traveled outside France. He instead drew on images of the exotic as it was presented to the urban dweller through popular literature, colonial expositions, and the Paris Zoo. The lush jungle, wild animals, and mysterious horn player featured in this work were inspired by Rousseau's visits to the city's natural history museum and Jardin des plantes (a combined zoo and botanical garden). Of his visits the artist said, "When I am in these hothouses and see the strange plants from exotic lands, it seems to me that I am entering a dream."
Gallery label from 2011.