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Odilon Redon

Updated on May 15, 2014

Odilon Redon: French Symbolist Painter, 1840-1916

I'm embarrassed to say I've forgotten most of the details. Paris in my mid-20s. A smallish, lovely museum exhibiting the work of Odilon Redon. Was it the Orangerie? Jeu de Paume? I remember the friends I was with, I remember the chilly gray day, but most of all I remember a painting that almost knocked the breath out of me...

(Flower Clouds, 1903, public domain)

Beatrice, 1885

Photos don't do this painting justice. In person it's luminous, almost glowing--beatific, really. For someone like me who responds intensely to color, the use of color alone was like a religious experience :) Happily, I repeated the experience with painting after painting that day in Paris, and later at a Redon exhibit back home in Chicago.

What Was the Symbolist Movement?

Symbolism was a late-19th-century art movement of French and Belgian origin in poetry (namely Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, or The Flowers of Evil) and other arts, including painting. Rejecting the rationalism and materialism that had come to dominate Western European culture, Symbolism stressed strong emotions as a source of aesthetic experience.

From Wikipedia:

"Symbolism was largely a reaction against naturalism and realism, anti-idealistic movements which attempted to capture reality in its gritty particularity, and to elevate the humble and the ordinary over the ideal."

Spirituality, dreams, and the imagination were favorite themes of Symbolist artists, including Redon.

"I am certain about what I will never do--but not about what my art will render."

Some of my favorite works by Redon - Which do you like?

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Melancholy, 1876Figure Holding a Winged Head, 1876Parsifal, 1891Mystical Conversation, 1896Sita, 1893Portrait of Ari Redon, 1898Chariot of Apollo, 1912Buddha, 1906The Boat, 1902Pandora, 1914
Melancholy, 1876
Melancholy, 1876
Figure Holding a Winged Head, 1876
Figure Holding a Winged Head, 1876
Parsifal, 1891
Parsifal, 1891
Mystical Conversation, 1896
Mystical Conversation, 1896
Sita, 1893
Sita, 1893
Portrait of Ari Redon, 1898
Portrait of Ari Redon, 1898
Chariot of Apollo, 1912
Chariot of Apollo, 1912
Buddha, 1906
Buddha, 1906
The Boat, 1902
The Boat, 1902
Pandora, 1914
Pandora, 1914

"My originality consists in putting the logic of the visible to the service of the invisible."

Redon influenced...

Henri Matisse and the Fauves, who were inspired by his use of color. (The Fauves--French for "wild beasts"--were a small group of artists who shocked critics with a wild, vibrant style using short strokes of vivid color.)

The Surrealist movement that began in the 1920s and included Marcel Duchamp, Salvador Dali, and Max Ernst. (In the 1870s and '80s, before he "found color," Redon's work often included haunting images of floating eyes and heads, which may have especially inspired the Surrealists.)

Symbolists like Redon also influenced the Art Nouveau movement and Les Nabis (an influential group of post-Impressionist artists, including Pierre Bonnard, who worked together in the 1890s).

Think floral still-lifes are boring? - Take a look at how Redon reinterpreted them.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

"It is precisely from the regret left by the imperfect work that the next one can be born."

What do you think of Redon?

What do you think of Redon?

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Redon Books & Prints

Amazon's selection ranges from the creepy, Poe-influenced style of Redon's earlier drawings to his jewel-like floral beauties.

"While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality...

...true art lies in a

reality that is felt."

Thanks for letting me share one of my fave painters with you. Any thoughts much appreciated!

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    • verymary profile image
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      Mary 5 years ago from Chicago area

      @MarjorieWard: this comment made me so happy -- thanks!

    • profile image

      MarjorieWard 5 years ago

      I had never heard of him until a few months ago when I was assigned a paper in Art History... Wow! I can't believe he's not more well-known. I agree his work is literally breathtaking. Will forever be my favorite artist.

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 6 years ago from Chicago area

      @mariatjader: no, it was much smaller than d'Orsay -- although I agree it is a wonderful place! this was a temporary exhibit somewhere. thank you so so much for the blessing!!

    • mariatjader profile image

      mariatjader 6 years ago

      I think you may have been at the Musée d'Orsay, they have a fantastic Redon collection there. Your lens brought back some lovely memories, for me as well the first encounter with these works took place in similar circumstances..

      Great lens about a more obscure artist & squid angel blessed*

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I particularly love Redons black and white drawings

      I personally think he was a surrealist whom was way ahead of the curb

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 7 years ago from Western Mass

      thank you for introducing me to a new artist.

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 7 years ago

      I also had not heard of this artist but I really like his work. Great Lens

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 7 years ago

      I love learning new things - today I accomplished that by visiting your lens. Beautiful art!

    • myraggededge profile image

      myraggededge 7 years ago

      Great lens and a nice intro to the artist's work. Thank you!

    • profile image

      Leanne Chesser 7 years ago

      This is the first time I've heard of this artist . . . but great stuff!

    • Elle-Dee-Esse profile image

      Lynne Schroeder 7 years ago from Blue Mountains Australia

      I hadn't heard of this painter before. Beautiful! Thankyou

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 7 years ago from Minnesota

      Chariot of Apollo and Pandora are my faves. I am an art lover, too. But I was unfamiliar with Odilon Redon until now. Thanks for bringing this wonderful artist to my attention!

    • lakern26 lm profile image

      lakern26 lm 7 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I really enjoyed learning about this painter. Thanks so much for the introduction! 5*

    • profile image

      kimmanleyort 7 years ago

      Really interesting! I had not heard of him but love this work. The still life's especially.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 7 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Very nice!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Very interesting art!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 7 years ago from Canada

      Beautifully done & blessed.

    • profile image

      bdkz 7 years ago

      Nice!

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Great work. The paintings are lovely. 5 stars.

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Love your Gibran quote too! lensrolled, faved...

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 7 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      Wonderful and beautiful! 5*****

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 7 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Gorgeous lens. Blessed by an angel. : )

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 7 years ago from United States

      Excellent Lens! Thanks for introducing me to Odilon Redon.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Great lens! I have never heard of Redon before, his art is gorgeous! I love his use of color :)