Tiger in a Tropical Storm
Henri Julien Félix Rousseau
Why we love it
This picture was the first of around 20 ‘jungle’ paintings that Rousseau produced during his career.
These pictures gave an aura of exoticism to both Rousseau and his art in his lifetime, and they continue to be among his most popular works. Rousseau’s jungles are entirely imaginary, as he never left France.
He covered the completed picture with a mesh of semi-transparent silver-grey stripes to represent rain, which echo the tiger’s stripes and the long blades and leaves. This method of painting rain is similar to Japanese woodblock prints, such as Hiroshige’s Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi Bridge and Atake, which was published in 1857 as part of his One Hundred Famous Views of Edo.
Rousseau may have known these prints, as Japanese woodblocks circulated widely in Europe, and were collected by French artists. The tiger itself is a composite of stuffed specimens, zoological and magazine illustrations and the domestic cat.
Rousseau may also have seen images of tigers by Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme, which were often reproduced in prints and photographs.
Despite receiving his first acclaim for Tiger in a Tropical Storm and continuing to display his work yearly at the Salon des Indépendants, Rousseau didn’t return to the jungle theme for another seven years until the exhibition of Struggle for Life (since gone) at the 1898 Salon. After this exhibition, one critic stated, “Rousseau continued to express his visions on canvas in implausible jungles… grown from the depths of a lake of absinthe, he shows us the bloody battles of animals escaped from the wooden-horse-maker.” The reactions to his work were not significantly altered.
Despite the criticism directed at his art up until and after his death in 1910, Picasso, Matisse, and Toulouse-Lautrec were among his contemporaries who admired it.