Odilon Redon

(French artist 1840-1916)

“True art lies in a reality that is felt.”

In trying to explain the darkness present in Redon’s early works, predominately black-and-white charcoals, critics described them as “mutated, terrifying creatures dominated this macabre period which Redon called “le noirs’ “, but which Paul Gauguin says in Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon: “If we look closely at Redon’s profound art, we find little trace of ‘monsters’ in it.” Gauguin called them “imaginary beings” instead. My personal favorite of these pieces is The Smiling Spider. However you choose to call these creatures, in the 1890’s his work became ethereal, lush and rich. His scenes combined romantic literature and religious myth .

Years ago when I lived on the east coast I went to a Gauguin exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. One of Gauguin’s paintings was of a vase of sunflowers on a chair. One of the flowers had an eye in the center. This was a tribute of sorts to Redon who (I read) speculated a flower was a rudimentary experiment of God as an eye into this world. ( I am paraphrasing).
In a review of the 1868 Paris Salon, Redon wrote:
“True art lies in a reality that is felt.”
What a divine character and a wonderful artist!