About the cover.
As the Gods began one world, and man another, So the snakecharmer begins a snaky sphere With moon-eye, mouth pipe. He pipes. Pipes green. Pipes water. Slyvia Plath, "Snakecharmer"
Critics called him "naive," the term for painters with no formal training in art. Henri Rousseau, self-made late-bloomer from Laval, France, fit the definition. But his work proved that in art as in all ventures, training, though valuable, is not the key ingredient--not as key perhaps as talent, inspiration, or originality. Untrained in art but not uneducated by the standards of his days, Rousseau was a teacher and a military man. He was interested in politics and the realm of ideas. He knew music and poetry and even tried his hand as playwright. Dubbed "Le Douanier" (customs officer) after his main occupation outside art, he struggled in anonymity until near the end of his life, when he was discovered by Pablo Picasso and others and was recognized for his powerful individual style. (1).
Like other naive or primitive artists, Rousseau found art late in life. He took up paintings as a hobby and soon retired from his job in the customs office to devote time to this new vocation. He copied the masters, struggled to learn their craft (particularly the academic style of Ingres), and aspired to paint like them. He exhibited often at the Salon des Independents in Paris, where artists could show their paintings without selection restrictions, and what he might have lost to technical clumsiness he seemed to make up in ingenuous in·gen·u·ous
1. Lacking in cunning, guile, or worldliness; artless.
2. Openly straightforward or frank; candid. See Synonyms at naive.
3. Obsolete Ingenious. charm. Although his work is difficult to categorize, he seems to have been influenced by his contemporary Paul Gauguin and his followers, the Nabis, who promoted directness of feeling and color harmony (2). Rousseau eventually found his own formal language and style, but what elevated his mature work to greatness were perhaps the very oblivion of convention, the freshness of approach, and the depth of discovery that comes from a truly unique perspective.
Rousseau's exotic compositions owe nothing to traditional art methods yet defy modern labels. The fantastic vegetation in his jungle paintings (for which he is best known) has no equivalent in nature. These exotic landscapes, oversized o·ver·size
1. A size that is larger than usual.
2. An oversize article or object.
adj. o·ver·size also o·ver·sized
Larger in size than usual or necessary. and filled with exuberant color, were entirely imaginary. Although often inhabited by half-concealed wild beasts and laced with conflict, they exuded an eerie stillness. The images, smooth, vivid, and clearly defined, were flat fluid against dense but dimensionless greenery, and although unreal and extraordinary, were rendered in meticulous botanical detail.
The Snake Charmer charm·er
1. One that charms, especially a disarmingly attractive person.
2. One who casts spells; an enchanter or magician.
Noun 1. , on this month's cover of Emerging Infectious Disease An emerging infectious disease (EID) is an infectious disease whose incidence has increased in the past 20 years and threatens to increase in the near future. EIDs include diseases caused by a newly identified microorganism or newly identified strain of a known microorganism (e.g. , is one of Rousseau's finest and most celebrated works. Like his other jungle paintings, it is filled with lush greenery. Punctuated by an uncoiling reptile at arm's length arm's length adj. the description of an agreement made by two parties freely and independently of each other, and without some special relationship, such as being a relative, having another deal on the side or one party having complete control of the other. , the thick vegetal vegetal /veg·e·tal/ (vej´e-t'l) vegetative (defs. 1, 2, and 3).
1. Of, relating to, or characteristic of plants.
2. screen that makes up most of the landscape is live with tension. The dark, undulating figure of the snake charmer dances ambiguously amidst a tangle of wildlife. Nature, framed by "a wave of flickering-grass tongues," (3) looms in the foreground immediate and tangible, yet dreamlike and distant as the moon. In a trance, the animals are guided (it seems as much by the glossy stream as by the snake charmers' reed) into a tight ecological web, where unbeknownst to them they share more than the music.
Rousseau's imagination, like that of many of his contemporaries in Paris, succumbed to the allure of exotic lands, where plants grew larger than life larg·er than life
Very impressive or imposing: "This is a person of surpassing integrity; a man of the utmost sincerity; somewhat larger than life" Joyce Carol Oates. , wild animals WILD ANIMALS. Animals in a state of nature; animals ferae naturae. Vide Animals; Ferae naturae. held unknown powers and magnetism, and humans lounged in "Eden's navel" (3) amidst all that was lost in the fall from grace. To explain the products of his inflamed imagination, Rousseau falsely claimed that he had visited Mexico. But unlike Gauguin, who went to Tahiti in search for inspiration, Rousseau traveled only vicariously and found his models in local gardens and the Paris zoo.
Exotic lands have become prosaic to us. What remains naive and primitive is our knowledge of the forest's architecture and the perils of its convergence with human habitat. But like the uncoiling snake in Rousseau's painting, out of the impenetrable jungle comes knowledge about pestilences, piece by piece: a favorable environment, a stable population, a reservoir host reservoir host
A host that serves as a source of infection and potential reinfection of humans and as a means of sustaining a parasite when it is not infecting humans. , the agent. The emergence of West Nile virus West Nile virus, microorganism and the infection resulting from it, which typically produces no symptoms or a flulike condition. The virus is a flavivirus and is related to a number of viruses that cause encephalitis. in North America is a case in point. We, modern snake charmers, must pipe the pieces (bird, horse, reptile) into a knowable, harmonious fabric.
(1) Shattuck R, Behar H, Hoog M, Lanchner C, Bubin W. Henri Rousseau. New York: New York Graphic The New York Graphic (also called the New York Evening Graphic, and is not to be confused with The Daily Graphic) was a tabloid published from 1924 to 1932 by physical culture promoter and publishing mogul Bernarr Macfadden. Society; 1985.
(2) Janson HW, Janson AF. History of art. New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc.; 2001.
(3) Plath S, Snakecharmer [cited 2003 May 14]. Available from: URL URL
in full Uniform Resource Locator
Address of a resource on the Internet. The resource can be any type of file stored on a server, such as a Web page, a text file, a graphics file, or an application program. : http:// www.eng.fju.edu.tw/English_Literature/us_poetry/Plath/Plath_poem.html.