The Dream by Henri Rousseau

The Dream was created by Henri Rousseau in 1910, a French Post-Impressionist painter. As his last completed work, it was first debuted a few months before his death.

It’s one of Rousseau’s paintings with a jungle theme with surreal fantasy. In the left of the painting, a white naked woman, Rousseau’s mistress from his youth, is lying on a modern couch in a lush and exotic jungle, including lotus flowers, fruit trees, elephant, birds, lions, and a snake. She reaches out her left arm towards the lions and a black man on the right. On the upper right side, a bright full moon is hanging in the sky, and the black snake charmer is playing flute, facing the viewers, with two lions around him. Huge lotus flowers with blue and pink colors are in full bloom. It just likes a jungle in fairy tales. It’s not a real jungle for lotus flowers are not growing in jungles. According to a letter by Rousseau to art critic Andre Dupont, the painting depicts a woman dreaming she is listening to a flute player in the jungle while she lying in a couch in Paris. To help understand the painting, Rousseau ever wrote a related poem:

Yadwigha in a beautiful dream

Having fallen gently to sleep

Heard the sounds of a reed instrument

Played by a well-intentioned [snake] charmer.

As the moon reflected

On the rivers [or flowers], the verdant trees,

The wild snakes lend an ear

To the joyous tunes of the instrument.

The painting The Dream exudes a feeling of peace and harmony. The quiet lions and birds are the symbols of thoughts, reflecting the painter’s inner peace.

Though it’s a painting that depicts jungle scenes, Rousseau himself never saw a jungle. The Dream is the dream of Yadwigha, and even the dream of Rousseau. It’s the product of Rousseau’s imagination. His got inspiration from illustrated books and botanical gardens in Paris, and he heard stories spread by soldiers who had experienced the French expedition to Mexico during his term of service in army.

Rousseau started painting at a late age, in his early forties. He was self-taught and has never been trained professionally. He is considered as a naive or primitive painter. His early works were not quite welcomed and received negative receptions, but he still kept on his own style without following the stream. Therefore, now we can these unique artworks, simple, naive, but natural and exotic.

The Dream (Rousseau painting)
The Dream (Rousseau painting)

The Sleaping Beauty by Burne Jones

The painter spent nearly 20 years to draw many pictures about The Sleaping Beauty (1870~1890). This painting was drawn from the father of English poetry of Chaucer’s (1340~1400) literature and folklore “Sleeping Beauty” which similarly showed the pure beauty. In this pure love greenhouse, the beauty fell asleep peacefully and the maids that accompanied the beauty also went asleep. It seemed that all the implements were silent. However, only the roses were in full bloom. This was a kind of artistic pursuit and a view of love, feeling and love were above all, which was the rhetorical question for the depressed mood. Solemnity and burnout were injected into the artistic life and soon spread throughout the painting world at the end of the century, affecting a large number of artists. Times gave a high evaluation to the four paintings under the theme of beauty, “The bright love depicted in Bourne Jones paintings is what we are quite familiar with, but it has never been showed in such a large scale and so rich fantasy elements. Fantasy and fairy world must never so

and asked her to surely prepare the branch with the long and terrible spikes as thick as the wrist. Bourne Jones took his daughter as a model to create this sleeping beauty. The psychological analysts thought it showed Bourne Jones’s subconscious mind to use the heather branch to resist the purity of her daughter being occupied and his own aging.

The Sleaping Beauty 1890
The Sleaping Beauty 1890

At the Lake Fishermen by Isaac Levitan

Lithuanian-born, Russian-based artist Issac Levitan who was well-known for a number of noted Russian landscape series including this one, At the Lake Fishermen. He had great fondness for landscape painting especially for countryside. In his work, landscapes are not mere eye candy, but rather symbols of escape from the hustle and bustle society, representing the peace and quiet he was longing for.

Rendered in soft, airy hues, Levitan painting At The Lake Fishermen pulses with gentle colors and textures. In this painting, two fishmen are sitting in a boat staying on a lake, one of them is holding a fishing rod. We can see that it’s a sunny day, the lake is calm and quiet with no waves and ripples, reflecting the blue sky and clouds clearly. There are reeds grown in the lake swaying in the gentle breeze. In far distance, there is dark green forest by the lake. Blue sky is decorated with floating white clouds. The whole scene is covered in an atmosphere of tranquility and peace, conveying the painter’s deep desire for freeing from the agitated restless life mood.

At The Lake Fishermen
At The Lake Fishermen

Levitan changed his viewers’ perception of their mundane environment, evoking an intense feeling of the sublime. He took mundane objects as a starting point and manipulates them artfully to give new meanings to them, making the subject come to life and provide a stunning resemblance to the real thing. He owned the capability to involve viewers in his paintings and share his feelings with him.

Phyllis and Demophon by Burne Jones

In 1870, Bourne Jones painted Phyllis and Demophon in watercolor form and ten years later he showed the same content in the painting. The latter form strengthened the sense of passion. This work was based on the ancient poet Rome Ovid Metamorphosis. In the Greek mythology, the Thracian king’s daughter Phyllis and Athens’s Prince Demophon fell in love with each other. They decided to get married, but their parents were strongly against it. Then Phyllis and Demophon agreed to escape together. Later Demophon did not keep the appointment because of his fear. Thus Phyllis was too desperate to hang herself and her body turned into a strain of almond tree. Demophon was very remorseful and as his physical condition got worse, he came to the place where they once prearranged to meet each other and cried so hard. However, the almond tree was in blossom magically. At that time, Demophon eased his sorrow. Then he often came there. If he hug the tree, the tree would blossom.

Bourne Jones made such performance in this painting: Demophon came to the scheduled place and hugged the tree to cry. At that time, Phyllis soiled out from the tree and gave a hug to comfort Demophon. Another way of saying was Demophon did not go there. Therefore he was so condemned and his face became haggard gradually. He always went there to tell the pain around the almond tree. One day the almond tree blossom. The painter combined the story’s details and depicted Phyllis into the image that got out from the wood to hug Demophon, but Demophon dodged away in panic. This painting was painted in the watercolors and oil paints. And this had the thicker erotic flavor.

Phyllis And Demophon 1870
Phyllis And Demophon 1870

Beata Beatrix by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Beata Beatrix was made by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (British) between 1864 and 1870. It measures 88.4 cm × 66 cm, which is now collected in the Tate Gallery. This painting is a kind of symbolic image of his wife: a red pigeon in the painting holds the white poppies in its mouth and is ready to fly into the arms of Beata Beatrix. The reversal of the colors shows the anomalous fate. The painter curses this reversal life and death aiming to recover the lost love. Beata Beatrix intoxicatingly raises her head and closes her eyes to show her crazy love for her husband before death. Her hands are folded, with the background painting a sundial pointing to word “9”. This indicates the time that Beata died and also the time on the evening before his wife’s death. On the back there are two images: Eros and Dante. The color is pure, only red and green are isolated together.

Rossetti made such an explanation to this painting: this is reflected by her sudden death into the kingdom of heaven and sitting in the balcony which dominates the whole city. Do you remember how Dante describes the sad scene after her death? So I want to regard city as the background and add the image of Dante and God who casting a hostile look. When the bird spreading the death takes the poppy into Beata Beatrix’s hands, how unfortunate this is! From her locked eyebrows, we can see she has been aware of a new world, as written in the end of “Rebirth”, the happy Beatrix will always stare at his face.

Beata Beatrix 1880
Beata Beatrix 1880

The Stour Valley with the Church of Dedham by John Constable

The Stour Valley with the Church of Dedham was made by the famous British landscape painter John Constable in 1815. It is painted on canvas, measuring 55.6 x 77.8 cm. The painting is now collected in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Constable indicates the time, date and weather conditions in each painting on the back, in order to establish the relationship between the dark weather and light. The painting uses the colors to demonstrate the light changes. The above shrub leaves besides the farmer is shown with green and light blue because of the sunshine. And the lower debris is dark, forming a strong contrast due to the influence of light. In the foreground, the right farmers and horses are working in the field with a strong realistic style. It’s said that this painting is probably completed outdoors and the sketching place is near the hometown of Constable.

The painting is the third work of Constable under the same theme. The painter has a very clear purpose. He wants to capture the light changes varying from minute to minute. As he says, “No two days are alike, nor even two hours, neither were there ever two leaves of a tree alike since the creation of the world.” The painter intends to depict the changes of the nature to try new ways of painting, light changes in the air, moving clouds in the sky and the dynamic relationship between the air and the trees. Undoubtedly Constable’s love of nature is from his deep feelings for the childhood of rural life. In addition to his nostalgic thoughts, the painter also tries new elements and gives up the traditional painting techniques to depict the light and weather changes. He uses pure white or pure yellow to depict the sunshine and quick style to show the coming wind. Another element of the work is the sign of painter’s works. In the lower right corner of the screen, Constable portrays a group of working people. Many of his works have the elements and his landscape paintings often appear working characters, which is an integral part and is also a conqueror of the nature.

The Stour Valley with the Church of Dedham 1814
The Stour Valley with the Church of Dedham 1814

Wivenhoe Park by John Constable

Wivenhoe Park was made by the famous British landscape painter John Constable in 1816. It is painted on canvas, measuring 56.1 x 101.2 cm. The painting is now collected in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

In the paintings of Constable, the nature appears in its normal state as it originally is with the honest and real characteristics. Constable never dreams of depicting or pursuing the things that he has not seen and does not understand. He likes to portray the slowly drifting clouds. The quiet and transparent light blue sky is full of wonderful atmosphere. The sunlight revealed from the clouds sprinkles in the dense woods on the earth. The green grass and dairy herd which is leisurely grazing on the slope, the gooses that splash water and the fishermen that cast a net show intoxicating scenery like in a heaven. In this painting, the sunlight and the air have become the main subject that the painter explores and describes. This painting depicts the suburb manor in London. Constable makes his own processing according to the screen, for instance, he stretches the reflection on the lake to avoid the standard band to construct a vertical path leading to the red house in the center.

Wivenhoe Park 1816
Wivenhoe Park 1816

Some artists think that this painting lacks the unified effect, it’s with good reason: the both sides of the painting (outside of the left cow and the right boat) are added later. The subscriber was a retired general who thought the original painting did not show the overall perspective of his manor. Thus Constable had to widen the both sides and drew a black cow toward the outside of the painting and the manor’s daughter Mary Rebow who drove a cart to cover the juncture. If the both sides were hidden, the composition of the whole painting would be more perfect. Moreover, it is not appropriate to draw a cow facing the outside, because the audience will instinctively look out, but I’m afraid they will never look back.

View of Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds by John Constable

Constable once depicts Salisbury Cathedral from different angles. View of Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds is made in 1823, measuring 87.6 cm x 111.8 cm, which is preserved in London Victoria and Albert Art Museum. Made in 1823, this painting is a beautiful work with two tall trees extending from the right and left to the upper part and meeting at the top of the paining. Seen from them, a gray church with spires straightly cuts the clouds and disappears in the blue sky. A few cows are drinking water near the pond and several people are walking along the avenue. The sun is so soft and the environment

spires reach the clouds and disappear in the blue sky. The foreground is an elliptical pond, littered with several cattle drinking water. On the boulevard, someone is walking and the whole painting looks very quiet and elegant.