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The Waterfall by Henri Rousseau

The Waterfall, Henri Rousseau

The Waterfall was painted by Henri Rousseau. Henri had no formal art training, just a love of art, therefore his paintings were called "primitive". His painting focused on plant shapes and animal faces and he often used patterns, bright colors, and lots of details in his paintings. Rousseau is most famous for his jungle paintings. Rousseau had never visited a jungle. He got his ideas for these paintings from visits to the zoo and the Paris Botanical Greenhouse and Gardens. His memories and observations became the scenes for the jungles and animals in his work. Notice how he did not make the animals in his paintings completely realistic.

Questions to Ask

What is the first thing you see when you look at this print? This is the focal point. The focal point is what first draws your eye, something that stands out.

Why do you think this painting called "The Waterfall"? Do waterfalls really look like this? Show other pictures of famous waterfalls and have them discuss the similarities and differences. Do you think this is a good name for this painting? Why?

Is this a real place? What is the difference between real and imagined? Do the animals and faces look realistic? How did Rousseau use his imagination? When do you use your imagination?

Since Rousseau had never seen a jungle, do you think this painting looks like a jungle scene?

Count the different types of trees. How are they different? Describe the different leaf patterns that you see?

What is the weather like in the jungle? Did it just rain or is it going to rain soon? Can you tell by the colors that he uses? Talk about sunny colors: warm tones or red and yellow; shady colors: cool tons of blue and purple.

Rousseau used perspective in his paintings. What is perspective? There are levels of distance. Talk about how he uses overlapping. Point out what is big is near, what is small is far and there is less color and texture with distance.

Activities for the Classroom

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has an interesting online activity for this lesson. This link can be forwarded to parents to complete the activity with their kids. Kids Zone

For more background and kid friendly ideas; books located in kid section at AHML are "The Wonder of a waterfall" by Alan Fowler, "Henri Rousseau" by Mike Venezia, and "Henri Rousseau: a jungle expedition" by Susanne Pfleger.

During the presentation play a jungle or animals sounds CD in background.

Bring in different types of leaves for the children to observe. Have them discuss how color, shape, and texture differ among them.

Using crayons and white paper, ask the children to make several shades of green. Allow them to use green, blue, yellow, purple, and white and ask them to blend colors together to get a variety of shades.

Using white paper and crayons have the children draw a picture of a jungle scene. Ask them to draw one of their favorite animals in the jungle. Ask them to color the animal and trees using a pattern design.

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