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Adult Activity Inspired by Henri Rousseau's Flowers in a Vase, 1909

For Henri Rousseau, the theme of the still life, especially flowers, offered a pleasant diversion from more ambitious, academic subjects. The strict front-facing view of his flower paintings and his employment of clear, solid-colored forms and restricted, flattened space are all characteristic of folk or "primitive" art. The flowers in this painting have been carefully rendered. All of the floral varieties in the bouquet are recognizable: peonies, tulips, daisies, mimosas, acacias, and forget-me-nots. The surface is smoothly and evenly brushed, but it is sometimes interrupted to allow the white preparatory ground to show through as an element of texture.

In this activity for adults, we'll walk you through how to make a marker pen print inspired by Rousseau's Flowers in a Vase, 1909.

Flowers in a Vase

Henri Rousseau (French, 1844–1910). Flowers in a Vase, 1909. Oil on canvas, 17 7/8 x 12 7/8 inches (45.4 x 32.7 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1939 (RCA1939:17).

Getting Started

  • Still lifes were a diversion for Rousseau. What are some diversions in your own life?
  • What flowers would you depict? Do they have a special meaning?

Materials

  • Sheet of paper
  • Pencil
  • Marker pens
  • A rectangular piece of Styrofoam (you can also use of a piece of food packaging)
  • A spray bottle or a damp sponge
  • Paper towel

Artmaking Activity

1. With your pencil, draw the outline of a vase in the bottom half of your piece of Styrofoam. You can also add a horizontal line to represent a tabletop.

Tip: Keep the pressure of your pencil steady, you should be able to catch the indentation of the lines with your fingernail. If you draw too lightly, the details of your print will not show up.

2. Add some flowers to your vase, filling the space in the top half of your Styrofoam sheet. Keep your shapes simple.

3. If you want to suggest fabric curtains, add some vertical lines to the background. You can also add some ridges to the vase to create texture.

4. Choose whatever colors you like for your bouquet and the background. Color each section using your marker pens.

5. Now spray your piece of paper with the water from your spray bottle, or with your damp sponge, and blot the excess with a paper towel.

6. Center your piece of Styrofoam, and lay the paper, damp side facing down, on top of it. Rub the surface of the paper with both hands using even pressure.

Tip: Use your fingertips to feel out the the drawn details underneath. You should start to see some indentations on the back of the paper.

7. Gently peel back the paper to reveal your print!

An art activity inspired by Henri Rousseau's Flowers in a Vase, 1909

Optional: Share your creation on Twitter or Instagram with #AKBeyondWalls and #MuseumFromHome!

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