Henri Rousseau was fortunate enough to receive from established painters whom he admired the good advice to avoid formal training even when he was in a position to take advantage of it.
Emulating himself, Rousseau developed a style of great polish and assurance: he performed the unlikely feat of preserving the fly of his innocence in the amber of his technical sophistication. In pictures such as the well-known The Sleeping Gypsy, exotic subject matter intensifies and makes more obvious the otherworldliness inherent in all his work.
The combination of innocence and sophistication in a single manner is often found in visionary or fantastic art, albeit seldom so neatly balanced and as quintessential as in the paintings of Rousseau. William Blake was an innocent as well, first and foremost, despite all his theories. The balance between Blake’s innocence and the renaissance forms he co-opted to express it is so precarious, fragile, that he often tested the limits of disharmony.
At another end of the range is Paul Klee, an innocent sophisticate, a fantast as well whose own painterly vocabulary is an adaptation of the art of children and wild and untamed primitive humans in the sense of being outside all contexts of Western convention. Whatever the level of comprehension in his art, it remains a mystery to be solved for most.
Klee was no formula painter, and hence no known formula can explain away his work. What is unsettling is that Klee was a well-trained painter of high technical skill and an esthetician of subtlety and complexity, even if his work appears to be slight and simplistic. That is, his technical level and intellectualism are but superficialities of his art, meaning the kernel of his work’s impact hinges on an ability to respond unanalytically.