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Henri Rousseau’s Fantasy Jungle

Henri Rousseau’s Fantasy Jungle
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Children will learn about artist Henri Rousseau. They will then create oil pastel versions of Rousseau’s jungle-style paintings.

By Rebecca Engelman [Rebecca is an art educator from Cathedral School in Bismark ND.]

About Henri Rousseau:

Henri Rousseau was a French artist born in 1844, died in 1910. He was a self taught artist who often painted images of jungle scenes and animals. His work was almost always bright and colorful and he is best know for his Sleeping Gypsy painting of 1897.


  • Students will discuss the life and artistic style of Henri Rousseau.
  • Students will recognize and identify foreground, mid ground and back ground.
  • Students will create a stylized drawing using simple shapes.
  • Students will combine oil pastels to create value and depth.

What You Need:

  • 12 x 15 scrap paper
  • 12 x 15 white drawing paper
  • permanent fine tip black marker
  • oil pastels
  • water colors

What You Do:

Step 1

  1. Introduce your students to the life and art of Henri Rousseau.
  2. Use available resources to give the students some background information on the artist.
  3. Show the class prints of Rousseau’s jungle-style paintings.
  4. Discuss foreground, mid ground and background, warm and cool colors, and simple, stylized drawing, and repeating shapes.
  5. Show the students where and how Rousseau used these concepts.
  6. Discuss how Rousseau used resources around him (books, museums, gardens, etc.) and his imagination to create his paintings.

Step 2.

  1. Give the students scrap paper and black markers to practice drawing their jungle scene.
  2. Demonstrate the use of large, simple repeating shapes to create grass (foreground), flowers (mid ground), and trees (background).
  3. Use horizon lines to create depth.
  4. Point out the benefits of repeating a certain flower and/or color to “tie” their picture together.
  5. Let the students add simple animals to their picture. Do they need a moon or a sun? Will their picture be warm or cool? Remind them to keep their shapes large and to avoid small details.
  6. When they are satisfied with their “practice” paper. Let the students redraw their picture on good white drawing paper with a black permanent marker. No pencils!

Step 3. (Next Class)

  1. Pass out oil pastels and demonstrate for the students how to use the oil crayons like paint.
  2. Layer and blend the colors to create shading and depth.
  3. Remind the students to repeat colors throughout their composition and to use the pastel in a heavy manner.
  4. They may color the grass, flowers, trees, animals, sun and/or moon.
  5. Do not color the background space.

Step 4. (Next Class)

  1. Pass out watercolor paints, large watercolor brushes, and water containers.
  2. Have the students moisten the blue, violet, green and yellow paint.
  3. Students will begin painting by wetting the sky with clean water.
  4. They can then use blue and/or violet to wash the sky.
  5. Next, they may wet the grass or ground area with water and wash it using green and/or yellow and /or blue.

Henri Rousseau art lesson for kids Henri Rousseau art lesson for kids

Henri Rousseau art lesson for kids

More Information:

The Imaginary World of Henri Rousseau
Information for educators from the National Gallery of Art in D.C.

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