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  • Writer's pictureKaren Queller

Art Appreciation: Henri Rousseau – 'The Sleeping Gypsy'

In this post we will look at Henri Rousseau’s ‘The Sleeping Gypsy’ painting. We will practice looking at this piece of art for 5 minutes. We are accustomed to running by paintings and it takes practice to be able to slow down and really appreciate it. Let it soak in. And let your imagination flow with it.

First, here are a couple things to know about Henri Rousseau-

Henri Rousseau, born in 1844, was a French self-taught artist known for his unique style and imaginative works. Even though he never received formal training, he gained recognition for his dreamlike landscapes and exotic scenes that often featured lush jungles, wild animals, and mysterious figures. His artistic journey began in his early forties, and he became associated with the Naïve art movement (we can talk about this another time). His paintings are characterized by bold colors, dreamy landscapes, and a blend of reality and fantasy. Because he wasn’t a trained painter, his work has a childlike simplicity, giving his paintings a charming and unrefined quality. This is one of the reasons that I love this artist.


Put your timer on for 5 minutes. Simply look at this painting and pay attention to what arises for you.


Once the timer has gone off, take some time to write down some notes. Reflect and ask yourself some questions like…….

  • What catches your eye first? Take in the colors, the details, and the feeling it gives you.

  • Engage with the sleeping gypsy. Imagine her dream world as she rests under the moonlit sky. What do you think she's dreaming about? Feel free to let your imagination roam.

  • What is her relationship like with the lion? Are they travel partners or is she in danger of being eaten?

  • See those symbols and things around the gypsy? They're like clues to a mystery. What do they remind you of? what deeper meaning might they hold?

  • Check out the shades and tones in the painting. Do they make you feel calm, excited, or something else?

  • How does "The Sleeping Gypsy" speak to you? What does it make you think of? How does it touch your heart? Or do you dislike this painting- what repells you?

Aesthetic Response

Now it’s time for an Aesthetic Response. In Expressive Arts, an aesthetic response is the process of allowing a piece of work or expression to touch us in some way, and using any modality that calls you (music, poetry, painting, movement, etc. ) allow yourself to respond to what was touched within you.

Here is my aesthetic response as a contemplation about the lion in the scene-

Standing as a silent guardian, he watches over the slumbering gypsy with a mixture of awe and reverence. His golden eyes are fixed on her serene form, mirroring the moon's glow that bathes the desert landscape. While his powerful presence could easily stir fear, there's a gentle tranquility in his posture, suggesting an unspoken understanding between two creatures of the night. As the lion's thoughts unfold, he ponders the mysteries of the human world, perhaps musing about the dreams that fill the gypsy's mind and the stories whispered by the winds. In this surreal moment, the lion embodies a harmonious coexistence between the wild and the dreamer, where the boundaries between reality and fantasy blur in the soft glow of the moonlight.

Enjoy, and let me know what you come up with!

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1 Comment

david cohen
david cohen
Aug 27, 2023

Mother fuckin Lion will eat the gypsy

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