Rousseau identified the subject of this painting in a handwritten note, affixed to its stretcher, dated 1909, the year he consigned it for sale to the dealer Ambroise Vollard. The scene depicts the landscape around Bicêtre, a working-class community on the southern edge of Paris near the Bièvre river (now buried underground as it courses through the city). In Rousseau’s day, the waterway was heavily polluted, but certain spots still offered picturesque views, as suggested by the figures in peasant dress on the tree-lined path at left, and the glimpse of the seventeenth-century aqueduc d’Arcueil in the background.
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Title:The Banks of the Bièvre near Bicêtre
Artist:Henri Rousseau (le Douanier) (French, Laval 1844–1910 Paris)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:21 1/2 x 18 in. (54.6 x 45.7 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Marshall Field, 1939
Inscription: Signed (lower right): H. Rousseau
?private collection, France (1901); [Ambroise Vollard, Paris, from 1909; purchased from the artist February 23]; ?Paul Guillaume, Paris; [Alex Reid and Lefevre, London, until 1936; stock no. 307/35, sold June 16 as "Bicetre (sic)" for £578 to Bignou]; [Étienne Bignou, Paris and New York, 1936; sold to Field]; Marshall Field, New York (1936–39)
Art Institute of Chicago. "Henri Rousseau," January 22–February 23, 1942, unnumbered cat. (as "Spring in the Valley of the Bièvre").
New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Henri Rousseau," March 17–May 3, 1942, unnumbered cat.
New York. Wildenstein & Co., Inc. "Six Masters of Post-Impressionism," April 8–May 8, 1948, no. 43.
Venice. Biennale. "XXV Biennale di Venezia: Il doganiere Rousseau," June 8–October 15, 1950, no. 19 (as "Primavera nella valle della Bièvre").
Knokke, Belgium. Casino Communal. "Les peintres naïfs, du douanier Rousseau à nos jours: XIe Festival Belge d'été," June 29–August 31, 1958, no. 5 (as "Printemps dans la vallée de la Bièvre").
Paris. Galerie Charpentier. "Henri Rousseau dit "Le douanier"," February 1–April 16, 1961, no. 63 (as "Le printemps dans la vallée de la Bièvre").
Rotterdam. Museum Boymans-van Beuningen. "De Lusthof der Naïeven," July 10–September 6, 1964, no. 21 (as "Lente in het dal van de Bièvre").
Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne. "Le monde des naïfs," October 14–December 6, 1964, no. 21 (as "Printemps dans la vallée de la Bièvre").
New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Rousseau, Redon, and Fantasy," May 30–September 8, 1968, unnumbered cat. (as "The Bank of the Biève [sic] near Bicêtre").
Paris. Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. "Le douanier Rousseau," September 14, 1984–January 7, 1985, no. 53 (as "Une vue des bords de la Bièvre près Bicêtre, printemps").
New York. Museum of Modern Art. "Henri Rousseau," February 5–June 4, 1985, no. 54 (as "Banks of the Bièvre near Bicêtre, Spring").
Kunsthalle Tübingen. "Henri Rousseau: Der Zöllner—Grenzgänger zur Moderne," February 3–June 17, 2001, no. 49 (as "Frühlingslandschaft an den Ufern der Bièvre bei Bicêtre [Paysage des bords de la Bièvre près Bicêtre printemps]").
London. Tate Modern. "Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris," November 3, 2005–February 5, 2006, no. 35.
Paris. Grand Palais. "Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris," March 13–June 19, 2006, no. 35.
Washington. National Gallery of Art. "Henri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris," July 16–October 15, 2006, no. 35.
Art Gallery of Hamilton. "Henri Rousseau, 'Petit Douanier' of Modernism," June 2–September 3, 2007, no catalogue.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art—Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 6, 2012–January 4, 2013, no. 96.
Beijing. National Museum of China. "Earth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art—Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 8–May 9, 2013, no. 96.
Adolphe Basler. "Henri Rousseau, le douanier." Les albums d'art Druet 24 (1927), unpaginated, ill.
Christian Zervos. Rousseau. Paris, 1927, pp. II, 31, ill.
Harry B. Wehle. "A Picture by Henri Rousseau." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 34 (March 1939), pp. 64–65, ill.
"Rousseau—Primitive or Professional?" Art News 61 (1942), p. 19, ill., dates it 1908–10; notes that this type of quiet local landscape belongs to Rousseau's final period.
Daniel Catton Rich. Henri Rousseau. Exh. cat., Art Institute of Chicago. New York, 1942, p. 57, ill., tentatively dates it 1908–10.
Douglas Cooper. "Henri Rousseau: Artiste-peintre." Burlington Magazine 85 (July 1944), pp. 158, 164, ill., tentatively dates it 1908.
Rodolfo Pallucchini. "Il doganiere Rousseau." XXVe Biennale di Venezia. Exh. cat., Biennale. Venice, 1950, p. 242, no. 19, dates it 1909.
Josephine L. Allen and Elizabeth E. Gardner. A Concise Catalogue of the European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1954, p. 86.
Alfred Werner. Henri Rousseau, 1844–1910. Munich, 1956, colorpl. 24 [see Ref. Certigny 1984].
Maximilien Gauthier. Henri Rousseau, 1844–1910. Paris, 1956, colorpl. 24 [see Ref. Certigny 1984], dates it about 1908.
Dora Vallier. Henri Rousseau. Paris, 1961, unpaginated, no. 92, ill., dates it about 1904.
André Salmon. Henri Rousseau. Paris, , p. 58, ill. (color) [see Ref. Certigny 1984].
Jean Bouret. Henri Rousseau. London, 1963, colorpl. 8 [see Ref. Certigny 1984].
Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. Le monde des Naïfs. Exh. cat., Rotterdam Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Paris, 1964, unpaginated, no. 21, ill. [Dutch ed., 1964], dates it about 1903–4.
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 3, XIX–XX Centuries. New York, 1967, pp. 167–68, ill., discusses a signed note pasted on the back of the canvas by the artist that identifies the landscape as a view of the banks of the Bièvre near Bicêtre; remarks that although the note is dated February 23, 1909, the foliage is too advanced for February and the date does not indicate when the picture was finished, but when the annotation was made; comments that stylistically this work is related to works made two or three years before 1900.
Dora Vallier and Giovanni Artieri. L'opera completa di Rousseau il doganiere. French ed., 1970. Milan, 1969, p. 102, no. 162, ill. and colorpl. XXI, remarks that it is stylistically similar to works that date before 1905 and rejects the 1909 date.
Liza Bihalji-Merin and Oto Bihalji-Merin. Leben und Werk des Malers Henri Rousseau. Dresden, , pp. 37, 114, fig. 14 [see Ref. Adriani 2001].
Liza Bihalji-Merin and Oto Bihalji-Merin. Henri Rousseau: Leben und Werk. Cologne, , pp. 24, 67ff, fig. 15 [see Ref. Adriani 2001].
Klaus Werner. Henri Rousseau. Berlin, 1976, p. 10 [see Ref. Adriani 2001].
Cornelia Stabenow. "Die Urwaldbilder des Henri Rousseau: Stilbildung und Verhältnis zum Gesamtwerk." PhD diss., Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, 1980, p. 185 [see Ref. Adriani 2001].
Henry Certigny. Le douanier Rousseau en son temps. Tokyo, 1984, vol. 2, pp. 536–37, no. 256, ill., dates it 1900–1908.
Michel Hoog. Henri Rousseau. Exh. cat., Galeries nationales du Grand Palais. New York, 1985, pp. 222–23, no. 54, ill. [French ed., 1984, pp. 226–27, no. 53, ill.], supports the 1909 date and notes that Rousseau could have painted it either from memory or from a postcard.
Henry Certigny. Le douanier Rousseau en son temps, catalogue raisonné: Supplément No. 3. Paris, 1991, p. 22 [see Ref. Adriani 2001].
Eva Müller. Henri Rousseau und die Künstler des Bateau-Lavoir. Bochum, Germany, 1993, pp. 107, 189 [see Ref. Adriani 2001].
Cornelia Stabenow. Henri Rousseau, 1844–1910. Cologne, , pp. 41, 47, ill. [see Ref. Adriani 2001].
Katharine Baetjer. European Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Artists Born Before 1865: A Summary Catalogue. New York, 1995, p. 488, ill.
Götz Adriani. Henri Rousseau: Der Zöllner – Grenzgänger zur Moderne. Exh. cat., Kunsthalle Tübingen. Cologne, 2001, pp. 236–37, no. 49, ill. (color) [English ed., "Henri Rousseau," trans. Scott Kleager and Jenny Marsh, New Haven], dates it 1908–9.
Nancy Ireson inHenri Rousseau: Jungles in Paris. Ed. Frances Morris and Christopher Green. Exh. cat., Tate Modern. London, 2005, pp. 128, 223, no. 35, ill. p. 133 (color), dates it 1908.
Susan Alyson Stein inEarth, Sea, and Sky: Nature in Western Art; Masterpieces from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. [Tokyo], 2012, pp. 148, 157, 248, no. 96, ill. (color and b&w) [Chinese ed., Hefei Shi, 2013, pp. 210–11, no. 96, ill. (color)], dates it about 1908–09.
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