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Surprised!
Henri Rousseau
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A tiger crouches low in thick jungle foliage, its back arched and teeth bared. It is not entirely clear what is happening: is the tiger cowering from the flash of lightning, or is it stalking prey?

Surprised! was the first of around 20 ‘jungle’ paintings that Rousseau produced, which are among his most popular works. These jungles are entirely imaginary: Rousseau never left France, despite his claim that he had served with the French army in Mexico. The foliage is a mix of domestic house plants and tropical varieties, which he had seen at the Botanical Gardens in Paris.

Rousseau was a self-taught amateur artist who took up painting as a hobby. He viewed his painting very seriously, despite facing ridicule from some quarters. But a number of artist and writers, particularly from the avant-garde, hailed him as an important figure. He is now seen as a pioneer of ‘naïve art’.

Key facts
Artist Henri Rousseau
Artist dates 1844 - 1910
Full title Surprised!
Date made 1891
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 129.8 x 161.9 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Bought, with the aid of a substantial donation from the Hon. Walter H. Annenberg, 1972
Inventory number NG6421
Location in Gallery Not on display
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