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)
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.
"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
"My originality consists in putting the logic of the visible to the service of the invisible."
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?
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."
- MOMA Redon Exhibit
New York's Museum of Metropolitan Art showcased Redon's work in "Beyond the Visible," October '05 to November '06, and created a matching online gallery. It groups works into 3 themes--Monsters, Tales, and Metamorphosis--and presents them beautifully
- Redon's Wikipedia entry
Biographical details & analysis of his work
- Sampling of Redon paintings
40+ works, nicely presented
Thanks for letting me share one of my fave painters with you. Any thoughts much appreciated!