Henri Rousseau was not selected in the French military draft process. So in 1863, age 18, he was working for a lawyer in Angers. Here we note the first blemish in his career. With the help of two younger friends, he unwisely takes a total of 15 francs and also stamps worth 5 francs from two men, one of whom was his employer.
(We will discover that Henri Rousseau was childlike in some ways, which in some ways is good, but he was somewhat gullible. Sometimes he was too trusting of people who would take advantage of his kind nature. But maybe we should not absolve him of guilt. He did take the money. Later in his life, he was involved with a more serious bank scam and was sent to jail.)
Henri was in trouble, so he joined the 51st Infantry Regiment. He really did not want to sign up for the seven years, but he was hoping somehow that his thefts might be overlooked for good behavior. And also he was under a little pressure that he should not dishonor his family and his knighted grandfather. The plan only worked partially. He was still sentenced to 1 month in jail before continuing in his military service.
In 1862-1863, Napoleon III sent 38,000(?) troops to Mexico and set up Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico. The French forces fought continually but they could never get complete victory. The war was not popular at home: it was a huge drain on France, costing about 336 million francs and the lives of about 6,000- 7,000 men. It was a humiliating defeat. The soldiers returned to France in 1867.
Henri was not really a soldier at heart. Two battalions of his regiment went to Mexico, but Henri stayed in France for his military service. He also played in the 51st Regiment band. In later years Henri talked about his service in Mexico, but in reality, Henri never left France.
At age 23, in 1868, Henri’s father died, so Henri asked for and was granted a release from the military to support his widowed mother. His mother still lived in Angers. Henri moved to Paris.
NEXT: Falling in love with Clemence.
Part 6: Henri Rousseau | Sunday Painter | Love and Life in Paris : GO TO PART 6
1. The Story of a Man determined to be one of the Greatest Painters in France GO TO PART 1
2. Born in FRANCE|Kings & Castles|Revolution|Napoleon|Victor Hugo GO TO PART 2
3. Henri Rousseau | His Family and Childhood GO TO PART 3
7. Henri Rousseau | Six Children Died / Only Julia Lived Past Age 18. GO TO PART 7
8. Henri Rousseau | Paris Customs Office (The Douanier) | Painting on the Job GO TO PART 8
9. Henri Rousseau | 1884 – not good enough | The French Art Salons GO TO PART 9
10. Henri Rousseau | 1885 Debut | 1886 A Carnival Evening GO TO CHAPTER 10
11. Henri Rousseau | Adieu, Mon Cher Amour. GO TO PART 11
12. Henri Rousseau | 1889 World’s Fair GO TO PART 12
13. Henri Rousseau | 1891 | Surprised! GO TO PART 13
14. Henri Rousseau | Looking for Love in Paris | 1893 | Moving to Montparnasse GO TO PART 14
15. Henri Rousseau | full-time painter | “War” in 1894 | Julia: “Au revoir, papa” GO TO PART 15
16. Henri Rousseau | Ambroise Vollard – the art dealer GO TO PART 16
17. Henri Rousseau | Alfred Jarry | More on “War”| Paul Gauguin GO to PART 17
18. Henri Rousseau | 1895 Paintings |short Autobiography GO TO PART 18