LOOKING  FOR  LOVE  IN  PARIS: Marie Foucher-Biche
In Recollections of Henri Rousseau, his friend, Wilhelm Uhde, later wrote (1911) concerning Rousseau:”To love and be loved was his great desire. He went through life bearing his heart in his hand as an offering. He wanted to marry every woman he met — and significantly enough, usually testified to his love with the gift of a picture.” The lady he loved , Marie Foucher, had married the policeman, Sergeant Frumence Biche, in March 1891.  Unfortunately, the policeman died a little over a year later, May, 1892. The determined Rousseau once more pursued his love, Marie Foucher-Biche.  He painted an impressive portrait of her (deceased) husband in his uniform. His efforts were not successful. She would always be his friend but not his wife. The portrait was found in 1961 in the attic of a cottage owned by Cecile Cheneau, the daughter of Frumence Biche.

Portrait of Sergeant Frumence Biche | Henri Rousseau | 1893 Salon of the Independents, Paris

Portrait of Sergeant Frumence Biche | Henri Rousseau | 1893 Salon of the Independents, Paris

1893 NINTH SALON of the INDEPENDENTS (March 17-April 27)
Among the canvases Rousseau brought to the 1893 Salon were the Portrait of Sergeant Frumence Biche and  The Last of the 51st Regiment.  Henri had served in the 51st Infantry Regiment, but it is commonly believed that he had not been in active combat.  Yann le Pichon said this painting is missing.  I borrowed the following image from the RIHA Journal website (riha-journal.org).

The Last of the 51st | Henri Rousseau | 1893  Salon des Artistes Indépendants |courtesy of Musée d'Orsay documentation

The Last of the 51st | Henri Rousseau | 1893 Salon des Artistes Indépendants |courtesy of Musée d’Orsay documentation

Henri wasted no time in finding someone else. We only know a few things about his new mistress, Gabrielle.  1) Henri’s 2 children, Julia and Henri, despised Gabrielle.  2) Her father was an officer. I think the Gabrielle affair did not last long.  The next year, 1894, he was “all alone”  after Julia went to live with Henri’s sister, Anatolie Roze.

Henri, Gabrielle, and the two children moved to Montparnasse, 44 Avenue du Maine, District 14 in ParisHenri Rousseau was the beginning, or at least in the vangard, of the artistic revolution that would soon make Montparnasse a destination for poor “starving” avant-garde artists from around the world. Rousseau considered himself more of a traditional artist, but he had a way of painting things as he wanted them to be rather than accurately depicting his subject as it really was. He unwittingly opened the door to the whole MODERN ART movement. Many of the younger artists were attracted to his art and they had a respect for the good-natured old man. Picasso referred to him as Father Rousseau. As the years passed, more and more artists began to come to Montparnasse because of the artistic freedom and creativity, interraction with the other artists, and the low rent. The cafes became a place to discuss their art, to eat and drink, and sometimes to sleep. And for a time, about 1910-1920, Montparnasse would become probably the most famous cultural center  in the world.

Henri stayed at 44 Avenue du Maine about 3 years, and then moved to 14 Avenue du Maine.

JUNE 7, 1893PLEASE, MR. PRESIDENT.  Henri wrote a letter to the President of the Republic. [The following excerpts are from Rousseau’s letter in the French  National Archives (Archives Nationales F21 4338) and  printed in Henri Rousseau,  published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1985, p. 257]

“Mr. President,
The Undersigned, Henri Rousseau, is honored to address himself to you, Mr. President, to beseech you to be so good as to assist him in obtaining employment as an instructor in one of the State institutions for drawing and painting. Having rendered Twenty-nine years of service to the State and to the City of Paris, both as soldier and employee of the Toll Service, as the grandson of officers who fought under the Command of your forefather, he has a number of grounds for hoping that you will be so good as to come to his aid.”

“Please understand, Mr.President, that all those bad turns, which are intended to belittle him and to give him considerable pain, since he has but one desire and that is to seriously continue along the artistic path upon which he has been engaged for eight years now . . . . Within the span of Eighteen months he has received two honorable mentions and 1 silver medal, a mention at the 91 champs [sic] de Mars competition and a silver medal at the Exhibition des Alcools . . . . Thus you can see, Mr. President, that he has but one goal, that of striving to achieve an honorable post for himself, to continue to raise his family, and to provide a good upbringing for his children. The first steps in Art are hard ones; above all when Fortune has not smiled upon you; and he has been loaded down with many burdens. He would also be pleased were you, Mr. President, to alleviate his troubles, to see to the acquisition of one of the pictures that have been shown and that have met with Success.”

“Please be good enough to excuse his having been so bold as to write to you; but he is doing so in the firm hope that in you, Mr. President, he may find someone who will be so kind as to alleviate the sufferings that others seem bent upon inflicting and making him bear.”

We can see and feel Henri Rousseau’s desperate plea for some sort of financial help. Also we can understand that, despite his nonchalant outward appearance, he is deeply hurt inwardly by those who harshly criticize his paintings.

Also in 1893, a contest was held to choose someone to decorate the Bagnolet town hall. Henri submitted his idea for the mural, a patriotic painting entitled The Carmagnole.   He was probably already planning on retiring soon, and the painting would be a little extra source of income. As you can see,  Carmagnole was based on his 1892 painting, The Centennial of Independence. The Carmagnole was the theme song of the French Revolution and its popularity continued as a song supporting the French Republic.

Carmagnole | Henri Rousseau |1893 |Harmo Museum, Nagano, Japan

Carmagnole | Henri Rousseau |1893 |Harmo Museum, Nagano, Japan

 November, 1893  The Bagnolet panel, consisting of three painters, rejected Henri’s Carmagnole.  Henri was sad and extremely disappointed.

NEXT: PART 15 | full-time painter  | “War” in 1894 | Julia: “Au revoir, papa” GO TO PART 15

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
4. Henri Rousseau | SOLDIER BOY GO TO PART 4
6: Henri Rousseau | Sunday Painter | Love and Life in Paris GO TO PART 6
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
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

Enfant de Fleur: Authentic, Unretouched Portrait by Henri Rousseau: GO TO PORTRAIT
Enfant de Fleur/Flower Child: Child Portraits Compared: GO TO CHILD PORTRAITS
Enfant de Fleur: Is Flower Child his granddaughter ? GO TO GRANDDAUGHTER
Henri Rousseau Paintings in Museums around the World  GO TO MUSEUM PAGE
Enfant de Fleur/Flower Child: Fine Art Investment Opportunity GO TO OPPORTUNITY

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