(b. 1844, Laval, d. 1910, Paris)

Portrait of Madame M.

c. 1897
Oil on canvas, 198 x 114 cm
Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Complex arrangements of vegetation are often used by Rousseau as part of his pictorial language. The sequence of different leaf and flower patterns produces a rhythmical structure. In this portrait, the tall gaunt woman in a black dress with remarkably wide puff sleeves stands out directly in front of a background of flowers, above which only her head protrudes. The proportions are inconsistent, her hands almost larger than her head. Even more unrealistic is the scale of the head of this nameless woman and the little cat in the foreground on the right. On basis of these characteristics the painter succeeds in creating an impressive representation of the human figure.

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