Henri Rousseau (1884-1910), the father of primitive painting, known as Le Douanier was born in a small town of
Laval in the Mayenne district of France. Before deciding at the age of 41 to pursue a career in art, Rousseau's life
was remarkable only by virtue of a prison stint for pety theft which he committed while working in a lawyer's office
in Angres. After his release, he served in the French army, and he later claimed to have seen service in Mexico, but
this story seems to be a product of his imagination. He quit the army in 1868 and moved to Paris. His nickname refers
to the job he held with the Paris Customs Office (1871-93), although he never actually rose to the rank of `Douanier'
(Customs Officer). He took up painting as a hobby and accepted early retirement in 1893 so he could devote himself to
art. He tried to paint in the academic manner, but it was the innocence and charm of his work that won him the
admiration of the avant-garde: in 1908 Picasso gave a banquet, half serious half burlesque, in his honor.