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Homage to Odilon Redon

DECEMBER 10, 2015

At a recent used book library sale, I came across a book, The Graphic Works of Odilon Redon. I had heard of the artist before, but I was not that familiar with his work. Thumbing through the pages, I was mesmerized by the bizarre and intriguing vision of his Bosch-like world. I paid the $1 and immediately thought about interpreting his work, (copying from the master), in my style. The first few paintings are pretty close to the originals, but I plan on gradually pushing them into a sphere that is more my own. Working in the sketchbook helps me to do them more spontaneously.
Redon was born on April 20, 1840 in Bordeaux, but narrowly missed having New Orleans as his birthplace, and thus being an American. His French father had emigrated to Louisiana and married a Creole woman. Odilon’s older brother, Ernest, was born in New Orleans. But when Madame Redon became pregnant again, the family moved to France.

Apparently, Redon was a gentle and unassuming sort, not given to outraging the bourgeois with his behavior as was Gauguin, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec. Redon credited the artist Rodolphe Bresdin with teaching him the technique of printmaking, which opened the door to his “mind-haunting and often macabre” self-expression. According to Redon, art lovers, looking at Redon’s prints, would do well to surrender to the “charm of the vague”, as they would to chords of music, rather than search for a meaning, a “message” in the pedestrian sense of the word.

Opining on the color black, Redon states, “Black is the most essential of all colors. Above all…it draws its excitement and vitality from deep and secret sources of health… It does not please the eye and awakens no sensuality. It is an agent of the spirit far more that the fine color of the palette or the prism.”
It is not surprising that Redon has been claimed as a precursor to Surrealists who have asserted that “nothing but the astonishing” is beautiful, and who have described their pictures as “hand-painted dream photographs.”
--All biographical details are based on the introduction to the book by Alfred Werner.