At the now-legendary banquet at the Bateau Lavoir studio organized by Pablo Picasso and his friends in 1908 to celebrate Henri Rousseau, the honoree famously told his host that they were “the two greatest painters of their day, you in the Egyptian manner, I in the modern manner.” This wonderful, often-quoted observation is usually interpreted as an indication of Rousseau’s naïveté. Picasso was, after all, already Picasso in 1908 and his colleague, inaccurately known as the Douanier, the customs officer—he was, in fact, a toll collector—is even today still seen as an outsider, an innocent, self-taught artist. Picasso, at the time, together with his friend Georges Braque, was beginning to change forever our conceptions of pictorial space, recklessly defying all conventional ideas about representation. Rousseau, for all the off-beat charm of his work, clung to time-honored ideas...


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