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Odilon Redon (1840 - 1916)

Lifespan: 1840 - 1916

The Dark Side Of Nature: Science, Society, And The Fantastic In The Work Of Odilon Redon (2005) - Barbara Larson
[FR] [DE] [UK]

Related: dream art - fantastic art - grotesque art - French art - Symbolist art - Symbolist movement

"My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined." --Odilon Redon

La coquille (The Seashell) (1912) - Odilon Redon

"The concept that corresponds to a shell is so clear, so hard, and so sure that a poet, unable simply to draw it and, reduced rather to speaking of it, is at first at a loss for images." --Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space

Guardian Spirit of the Waters (1878) - Odilon Redon
image sourced here.

The Shapeless Polyp Floated along the Bank, a Sort of Hideous, Smiling Cyclops (1883) - Odilon Redon

Crying Spider (1881) - Odilon Redon
image sourced here.


Odilon Redon (April 22, 1840 - July 6, 1916) was a symbolist painter.

Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France.

Odilon Redon started drawing as a very young child and at the age of ten, was awarded a drawing prize at school. At age 15, he began to study drawing but on the insistence of his father switched to architecture. Any career in architecture ended when he failed to pass the entrance exams at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts but eventually he would study there under Jean-Léon Gerôme (1824-1904).

Back home in his native Bordeaux, he took up sculpture and was instructed in etching and lithography by Rodolphe Bresdin (1822-1885).

However, his artistic career was interrupted when he joined the army in 1870 to serve in the Franco-Prussian War.

At the end of the war, he moved to Paris, working almost exclusively in charcoal and lithography. It would not be until 1878 before his work gained any recognition with "Guardian Spirit of the Waters" and he published his first album of lithographs titled: "Dans le Rêve" in 1879. Still, Redon remained relatively unknown until the appearance in 1884 of a cult novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans titled: "A rebours (Against Nature) ." The story featured a decadent aristocrat who collected Redon's drawings.

In the 1890s, he began to use pastel and oils. That dominated his works for the rest of his life. In 1899, he exhibited with the Les Nabis at Durand-Ruel's. In 1903 he was awarded the Legion of Honor. His popularity increased when a catalogue of etchings and lithographs was published by André Mellerio in 1913 and that same year, he was given the largest single representation at the New York Armory Show.

Odilon Redon is considered by many as the greatest of the French Symbolist painters. His works can be found at some of the great museums in Europe and North America.

In 1923 Mellerio published: "Odilon Redon: Peintre Dessinateur et Graveur." --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odilon_Redon [May 2005]

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