Surprised! The truth about Rousseau

The famous masterpiece Surprised! or Tiger in a Tropical Storm was painted by Henri Rousseau in 1891, and depicts a tiger stalking it’s prey through a jungle in the bottom left corner, while a flash of lighting cracks the sky in the top right corner.

Although Rousseau had claimed to experience jungle life from his youthful adventures in Mexico, this was later debunked by the realisation that the visionary exotic artist had never left France. He had never seen a tiger in the fur, so many of the animals he drew were based on his own pets.

As with many hermetic artists Rousseau was a fantastic collector of cats. The tiger in Surprised! was based on a favourite tom named Frederic, who possessed unusually bulging eyes. Henri believed his feline companion was able to hypnotise him in order to be fed. Much like the predator in the painting.

The painting now hangs in the National Gallery in London, where Frederic may continue to hypnotise new generations for years to come.