卢梭出生于拉瓦尔，法国，在1844年进入家庭水管工的; 他被迫作为一个小男孩那里工作。他出席了拉瓦尔高中作为一天的学生，然后作为一个寄宿生，他的父亲成为债务人和他的父母在他们的房子扣押离开镇。虽然平庸在他的一些高中科目，卢梭赢得了绘画和音乐奖。高中毕业后，他就职于一家律师和学习法律，但“未遂的小伪证和在军队中寻求庇护。” 他担任四年，于1863年与他的父亲的死亡开始，卢梭搬到巴黎1868年支持他的寡母作为政府雇员。1868年，他娶了克莱Boitard，其业主的15岁的女儿，与他有六个孩子（仅一人幸存）。1871年，他被任命为的集货物入市巴黎，在进入巴黎货物收税。他的妻子于1888年去世，他于1898年娶了约瑟芬Noury他开始四十出头认真画; 49岁时，他从他的工作退休对他的艺术的全职工作。
莫里斯·雷纳尔，在莱斯Soires巴黎，1914年1月15日，第 69，写了一篇关于“乐宴会卢梭。” 年后法国作家萨尔蒙回顾了杰出宴会的设置：
Rousseau was born in Laval, France, in 1844 into the family of a plumber; he was forced to work there as a small boy.He attended Laval High School as a day student and then as a boarder, after his father became a debtor and his parents had to leave the town upon the seizure of their house. Though mediocre in some of his high school subjects, Rousseau won prizes for drawing and music.After high school, he worked for a lawyer and studied law, but "attempted a small perjury and sought refuge in the army."He served four years, starting in 1863. With his father's death, Rousseau moved to Paris in 1868 to support his widowed mother as a government employee. In 1868, he married Clémence Boitard, his landlord's 15-year-old daughter, with whom he had six children (only one survived). In 1871, he was appointed as a collector of the octroi of Paris, collecting taxes on goods entering Paris. His wife died in 1888 and he married Josephine Noury in 1898. He started painting seriously in his early forties; by age 49, he retired from his job to work on his art full-time
Rousseau claimed he had "no teacher other than nature", although he admitted he had received "some advice" from two established Academic painters, Félix Auguste Clément and Jean-Léon Gérôme.Essentially, he was self-taught and is considered to be a naïve or primitive painter.
His best-known paintings depict jungle scenes, even though he never left France or saw a jungle. Stories spread by admirers that his army service included the French expeditionary force to Mexico are unfounded. His inspiration came from illustrations in children's books and the botanical gardens in Paris, as well as tableaux of taxidermy wild animals. He had also met soldiers during his term of service who had survived the French expedition to Mexico, and he listened to their stories of the subtropical country they had encountered. To the critic Arsène Alexandre, he described his frequent visits to the Jardin des Plantes: "When I go into the glass houses and I see the strange plants of exotic lands, it seems to me that I enter into a dream."
Along with his exotic scenes there was a concurrent output of smaller topographical images of the city and its suburbs.
He claimed to have invented a new genre of portrait landscape, which he achieved by starting a painting with a specific view, such as a favourite part of the city, and then depicting a person in the foreground.
Rousseau's flat, seemingly childish style was disparaged by many critics; people often were shocked by his work or ridiculed it. His ingenuousness was extreme, and he always aspired, in vain, to conventional acceptance. Many observers commented that he painted like a child, but the work shows sophistication with his particular technique.
From 1886, he exhibited regularly in the Salon des Indépendants, and, although his work was not placed prominently, it drew an increasing following over the years. Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!) was exhibited in 1891, and Rousseau received his first serious review, when the young artist Félix Vallottonwrote: "His tiger surprising its prey ought not to be missed; it's the alpha and omega of painting." Yet it was more than a decade before Rousseau returned to depicting his vision of jungles.
In 1893, Rousseau moved to a studio in Montparnasse where he lived and worked until his death in 1910.In 1897, he produced one of his most famous paintings, La Bohémienne endormie (The Sleeping Gypsy).
In 1905, Rousseau's large jungle scene The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope was exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants near works by younger leading avant-garde artists such as Henri Matisse, in what is now seen as the first showing of The Fauves. Rousseau's painting may even have influenced the naming of the Fauves.
In 1907, he was commissioned by artist Robert Delaunay's mother, Berthe, Comtesse de Delaunay, to paint The Snake Charmer.
When Pablo Picasso happened upon a painting by Rousseau being sold on the street as a canvas to be painted over, the younger artist instantly recognised Rousseau's genius and went to meet him. In 1908, Picasso held a half serious, half burlesque banquet in his studio at Le Bateau-Lavoir in Rousseau's honour.Le Banquet Rousseau, "one of the most notable social events of the twentieth century," wrote American poet and literary criticJohn Malcolm Brinnin, "was neither an orgiastic occasion nor even an opulent one. Its subsequent fame grew from the fact that it was a colorful happening within a revolutionary art movement at a point of that movement's earliest success, and from the fact that it was attended by individuals whose separate influences radiated like spokes of creative light across the art world for generations."
Guests at the banquet Rousseau included: Guillaume Apollinaire, Jean Metzinger, Juan Gris, Max Jacob, Marie Laurencin, André Salmon, Maurice Raynal, Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler, Leo Stein, and Gertrude Stein.
Maurice Raynal, in Les Soires de Paris, 15 January 1914, p. 69, wrote about "Le Banquet Rousseau". Years later the French writer André Salmon recalled the setting of the illustrious banquet: