Raising questions about Odilon Redon (1840-1916)

  • A_Edgar-Poe_(Devant_le_noir_soleil_de_la_Melancolie,_Lenore_apparait
    A_Edgar-Poe_(Devant_le_noir_soleil_de_la_Melancolie,_Lenore_apparait

    « L’artiste vient à la vie pour un accomplissement qui est mystérieux. Il est un accident. Rien ne l’attend dans le monde social. » What exactly did Redon mean by this remark? In general he had a penchant for the mysterious, the half defined, chiaroscuro and the symbolic image which might suggest several meanings at the same time. This very shy man sought for many years to gain recognition and attained it through his literary friends but not at first in the way that he had sought it. Perhaps he had a tendency not to want to gain recognition except in a manner which he found acceptable. This he attained quite late in life among the artists that are known as the Nabis.

  • For many years in his charcoals and lithographs he struggled to express inner fears and traumas that were the result of a difficult childhood with by his uncle. As the French version of Wikipedia expresses it:-  “D’une nature fragile, il est confié à une nourrice puis à son oncle, à la campagne, et passe son enfance entre Bordeaux et le domaine de Peyrelebade, près de Listrac dans le Médoc ; c’est là vers six ans « en plein isolement de la campagne » que les fusains voient le jour, dans cette nature pleine de clairs-obscurs et de nuances propres à éveiller chez le jeune garçon ce monde étrange et fantasmagorique, ce sentiment subjectif qui est l’essence même de son œuvre, et qui est encore aujourd’hui une énigme. ” The strange and suggestive charcoals emerged from his experience of life in the moist, atmospheric wine region that now produces bottles of fruity Médoc from €11.00 to €69.73.

    Peyrelebade by Redon
    Peyrelebade by Redon
  • The images which Redon made during his earlier “noir” period when his use of black and white was an attempt to struggle against a form of naturalism of which he disapproved. He might be considered a late romantic or on the other hand a very early surrealist. His imagery  reflected his obsessions with mortality and his interests in Hindu mysticism.
    Pierre Bonnard by Odilon Redon
    Pierre Bonnard by Odilon Redon

    Armand Clavaud his close friend was interested in botany and there is evidence of his influence in terms of images which might be viewed under the microscope. These were becoming capable of increasing resolution and chromatic aberration, which might have interested Odilon Redon might be compensated. After all this was the time when small micro-organisms were the subject of research in Paris by Pasteur.

    Maurice Dennis by Odilon Redon
    Maurice Dennis by Odilon Redon
  • Were the traumatic images in the charcoals and lithographs an early exloration that might be associated with some early form of psychoanalysis? In some way theredownload (3) appears to have been a kind of theraputic working through of dreams and images( part-objects) associated with infant trauma. The Zeitgeist of romanticism included a renewed respect for childhood fantasy and philosophers such as David Hartley (1705 – 28 August 1757) who was an English philosopher and founder of ideas of association and psychic structure. Of course Charcot  (Seehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Martin_Charcot  )twas using hypnosis to treat hysteria at Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital where Sigmund Freud was studying and researching in 1885. Charcot used drawings and photography widely in his, now shocking and unacceptable, observations of his patients.download (2)
  • Some of the spider imagery seems to evoke uncanny associations with Kafka’s work http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Die_Verwandlung
  • What were the factors which moved Redon towards the brilliant and beautiful colours of his later pastels?

    Golden Cell
    Golden Cell
  • To quote Fr. Wikipedia again “Les années 1890 et le début du siècle sont une période de transformation, de mutation, c’est l’abandon de ses « noirs », il commence à utiliser lepastel et l’huile, et la couleur domine les œuvres du reste de sa vie. Eve est son premier nu féminin réalisé d’après modèle. En 1899, il est présenté parMaurice Denis aux Nabis, groupe d’artistes qui compte parmi ses membres Gauguin.”
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