Odilon Redon 1840-1916

Artist biography

French printmaker, draughtsman and painter. Early developments matured into an active artistic career only after the Franco-Prussian War, in which Redon served as a soldier. He regarded this experience as the catalyst that finally produced in him a firm sense of vocation. He settled in Paris. He was by then producing large numbers of highly original charcoal drawings, which he called his Noirs. They evoke a mysterious world of subjective, often melancholic fantasy.

Lithographs formed a major part of Redon's production. But he also developed the potential for links with the written word in titles and captions. Above all he displayed in his lithographs audacious imagery that made the visionary seem plausible.

Although his Noirs made little impact on the general public, they won acclaim in the Parisian literary avant-garde. The aesthetic principles underlying Redon's art were close to those of Baudelaire. Redon was considered the major Symbolist artist.

Redon's reputation until 1890 rested entirely on work in black and white, but he had been using colour in unexhibited landscape studies. During the 1890s he used colour alongside monochrome, colour gradually becoming dominant. The transformation of nature into dream-like images, suggesting indefinite states of mind and expressed in sumptuous textures, remained his central concern.

After Redon's death, his family and friends completed a project that he had instigated: the publication of selections from his writings under the title A soi-même (1922). It demonstrates Redon's considerable skills as a writer as well as providing valuable insights into his work.

A. Mellerio: Odilon Redon (Paris, 1913, R New York, 1968) [complete cat. of lithograph albums and engrs]; review by R. Pickvance in Burl. Mag., cxi (1969), pp. 570–71
C. Roger-Marx: ‘Odilon Redon', Burl. Mag., xxxvi (1920), pp. 269–75
A. Mellerio: Odilon Redon, peintre, dessinateur et graveur (Paris, 1923)
S. Sandström: Le Monde imaginaire d'Odilon Redon: Etude iconologique (Lund, 1955)
R. Bacou: Odilon Redon, 2 vols (Geneva, 1956)
R. Bacou, ed.: Lettres de Gauguin, Gide, Huysmans, Jammes, Mallarmé, Verhaeren …à Odilon Redon, preface A. Redon (Paris, 1960)
Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau, Rodolphe Bresdin (exh. cat., New York, MOMA, 1962)
K. Berger: Odilon Redon: Phantasie und Farbe (Cologne, 1964; Eng. trans., 1965)
R. G. Cohn: Mallarmé's Masterwork: New Findings (Paris, 1966) [Redon's lithographs for Un Coup de dés]
A. Werner: The Graphic Works of Odilon Redon (New York, 1969) [lithographs and engrs]
J. Selz: Odilon Redon (Paris, 1971)
J. Cassou: Odilon Redon (Paris, 1974)
R. Hobbs: Odilon Redon (London, 1977)
M. Wilson: Nature and Imagination: The Work of Odilon Redon (London, 1978)
R. Bacou: La Donation Arï et Suzanne Redon (Paris, 1984)
R. Coustet: L'Univers d'Odilon Redon (Paris, 1984)
D. Gamboni: La Plume et le pinceau: Odilon Redon et la littérature (Paris, 1989)
S. Eisenman: The Temptation of St Redon: Biography, Ideology and Style in the ‘Noirs' of Odilon Redon (Chicago, 1992)
D. Druick, ed.: Odilon Redon (London, 1994)


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