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This painting is an homage to the neighborhood friend¬ships that are known to have figured importantly in Rous-seau's existence.
Claude Junier (not "Juniet") (1857-1932) and his wife ran a grocery store near where Rousseau lived. The neighbors became friends, and, in 1908, Rousseau painted their por¬trait, doubtless commissioned by them. In the painting, Junier and Rousseau himself are depicted on the front seat of the trap, while in the back are seated Madame Junier, with, on her right, her niece Lea Junier and, on her lap, the daughter of her nephew. Claude Junier, who was also a horse trainer, was particularly proud of his white mare, Rosa. Equally noteworthy is the presence of three dogs. Such an assembly of domestic animals is of rare occurrence in Rousseau's works.

Rousseau took several liberties with traditional perspective, in particular with the body of the trap, in which the occupants are carefully portrayed full-face, as in The Wedding Party. On the other hand, Rousseau attempted to express distance perspective by the edge of the sidewalk and the paved gutter that run across the lower part of the composition.

This painting is one of those for which the greatest amount of information is available concerning Rousseau's photographic "sources". Two photographs have been fre¬quently reproduced: one of them, paint-splattered, ¬belonged to Robert Delaunay, while the other was in the J.J. Sweeney collection; a third was revealed in a confi¬dential account. These photographs were the record of an excursion to Clamart (on the outskirts of Paris). The three of them were taken with the position of the trap and the camera angle unchanged. The horse has not moved, either; however, in each photograph, the people and the dogs are in different positions.

Rousseau used these photographs to make an overall layout design that he filled in after his own fashion, perhaps with the help of a pantograph, an instrument to enlarge an image to a desired scale, according to D. Vallier, the Post-Impressionist specialist. Thus, he eliminated the tree behind the horse's head and re-interpreted the vegetation. The figures are arranged in a manner unlike any of those shown in the three photo¬graphs. Were there possibly other photographs? In all likelihood, Rousseau rearranged the scene to suit his own fancy. While the figures are carefully grouped, the overall composition is exceptionally uncrowded. The accentuated main lines of the structure follow the vertical and the horizontal axes.

According to the valuable testimony of Max Weber, who witnessed the progress of this picture while it was being painted. Rousseau finished at the place where the black dog stands beneath the trap. "When Weber enquired whether he did not think that the dog might be too large for the amount of space allowed, Rousseau, gazing pensively at his canvas, answered that that was the way it had to be."

Details

  • Title: La Carriole du père Junier
  • Date Created: 1908
  • Provenance: Walter-Guillaume Collection
  • Physical Dimensions: w1290 x h970 mm
  • Painter: Henri Rousseau, dit le Douanier
  • Original Title: La Carriole du père Junier
  • Type: Oil on canvas
  • Rights: © RMN (Musée de l'Orangerie) / Hervé Lewandowski

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