I saw this beautiful piece of art in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. I hadn't known anything about it before seeing it. I wished I had known and read about it earlier so maybe I would appreciate its beauty more. But still, I spent minutes staring at it and imagining myself in a ''dream'', surrounded by the mesmerizing nature shown in the painting. There wasn't such a big crowd around it since it's not one of the most known paintings in art history. Thanks to that, I had the chance to get lost in the details and admire it for even longer.
It's a large (204.5 x 298.5 cm), oil-on-canvas painting by Henri Rousseau, a self taught-artist. He retired from his work as a customs inspector at age of 49 to continue his life as a full-time artist in a small studio in Montparnasse, Paris. He made numerous other jungle themed paintings, but this one is the largest. It was also his last completed work, and it was displayed in Salon des Independants, Paris only some months before his death. His visits to Paris’ Museum of Natural History and Jardin Des Plantes (a botanical garden combined with zoo) had a big influence on his paintings.
In 'The Dream', we see a nude woman laying on a French-style sofa. She looks as if she had been lifted from her house and grafted into this moonlight scene. She is Yadwigha, Rousseau's Polish mistress from his youth. She is pointing towards the middle figure, who appears to be a female native who is wearing a colorful skirt and playing the flute. Perhaps, Yadwigha is pointing at her to tell us she was awakened from her dream by that flute, and the whole painting is a projection of that dream. The moonlight turns the night into day and shows us the details of the jungle. There are birds, monkeys, a couple of lions, an elephant, a snake, and so many exotic plants. I also found this poetry that was attached to the painting by Henri Rousseau himself. It describes scene:
Yadwigha in a lovely dream,
Having most sweetly gone to sleep,
Heard the snake-charmer blow his flute,
Breathing his meditation deep.
While on the streams and verdant trees
Gleam the reflections of the moon,
And savage serpents lend their ears
To the gay measures of the tune.