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Odilon Redon (1840-1916)

Odilon Redon

i always have admired the artist Odilon Redon, but somehow I missed writing a blog on him. Because of a recent addition I checked it and found that I never had written anything on him. The addition is THE ENCHANTED STONE. A publication by the National gallery of Victoria. Published in 1990 and well worth collection. Available at

Born in Bordeaux, France, to an affluent family, he displayed an aptitude for drawing at an early age. Redon’s father wanted him to pursue architecture, but after he failed to pass the entrance exam to the École des Beaux-Arts, he began training as an artist. Due to the Franco-Prussian war, Redon’s career did not blossom until the late 1800s when he began producing work in pastel and oils.

Ophelia by Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon, “Ophelia,” 1900–1905

Although he was contemporary to the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, he rejected both movements. And while Redon exhibited with the group called Les Nabis in 1899 and shared some common interests with them, he was not a part of their style either. His oeuvre is associated with the Symbolist movement, which is typified by an interest in imbuing art with ambiguous metaphors and themes of romance, morbidity, and the occult.

Perhaps most notable of Redon’s artwork is his imaginative subject matter. Instead of drawing inspiration from what he saw, Redon preferred to paint images from his dreams, nightmares, and stories from mythology. This resulted in drawings and paintings with a tenuous grasp on realism, and a preferred emphasis on emotion, color, and atmosphere.

Redon explains his process in his journal: “I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted before an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased.”Redon utilized a unique color palette in his art. The unusual combination of faded pastel tones and acrid hues led to compositions that were overall very vibrant to the eye. Additionally, his color choices were not usually intended to be naturalistic choices, and actually enhanced the otherworldliness of his unusual pieces.

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