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Odilon Redon's Beautiful Delirium Come To Fundacion Mapfre (PHOTOS)

First Posted: 03/20/2012 11:49 am Updated: 03/20/2012 12:24 pm

Bertrand-Jean Redon, better known as Odilon Redon, made visible the ambiguous realm between sleep and waking.

The French symbolist painter blurred distinctions between memory, imagination and delirium with a sort of magical ease. His works were revolutionary in their quest to represent what was invisible. Though he was deemed a 'marginal' artist in his time, Redon's symbolist style paved the way for surrealism in the years to follow.

Born in 1840 to a prosperous family in Bordeaux, Redon began drawing at the age of 10, working in charcoal and lithography before switching to pastels and oils. An exhibition at Fundacion Mapfre captures Redon's dramatic transition from dark to light, a remarkable shift which arguably cannot be found elsewhere in art history.


Redon's works are as difficult to describe as last night's inscrutable dream, clearly emblazoned in the mind but impossible to relay to another. The hallucinatory quality to Redon's work is not limited to the subject matter but extends to his aesthetic as well. Radically different from his contemporaries, Redon worked in pastels that bubbled up, popped, and faded into sweet oblivion.


Natural forms had a monstrous uncertainty about them while monsters were rendered to look like a faithful memory the viewer too could recall. Even the portraits glow with a ghostly light as if all people were just mythical characters. Boundaries between species, forms and colors collapse into a stream of images. Part science, part myth and part madness, Redon invited the world into the dark recesses of his mind -- although it turns out the dark recesses of his mind proved to be quite lovely and colorful.

Redon's work will show at Fundacion Mapfre in Madrid until April 29.

See the breathtaking works below. What do you think, are these images more reminiscent of dreams or nightmares?

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  • Odilon Redon Araignée souriante, c.1881 Musée d'Orsay © RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Jean-Gilles Berizzi

  • Odilon Redon Profil sur méandres rouges, c.1900 Musée d'Orsay © RMN/ (Musée d'Orsay)/ Hervé Lewandowski

  • Odilon Redon Yeux clos, c.1890 © RMN/ (Musée d'Orsay)/ Hervé Lewandowski

  • Odilon Redon Mon Portrait, c.1867 Musée d'Orsay © RMN/ (Musée d'Orsay)/ Hervé Lewandowski

  • Odilon Redon La Silence, c.1895 Musée d'Orsay © RMN/ (Musée d'Orsay)/ Thierry Le Mage

  • Odilon Redon Fleurs, c.1895 Musée d'Orsay © RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

  • Odilon Redon La Barque rouge, c. 1905 Musée d'Orsay © RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Christian Jean

  • Odilon Redon Plante verte dans une urne, c.1910-1912 Musée d'Orsay © RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

  • Odilon Redon La Cime, c. 1895 Van Gogh Museum, Ámsterdam © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

  • Odilon Redon Le Char d'Apollon, c. 1910 Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux / Lysiane Gauthier

  • Odilon Redon Portait de Mmr. De Domecy, c.1897 Musée d'Orsay © RMN (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

  • Odilon Redon Roses dans un vase sur un guéridon, c. 1900 Van Gogh Museum, Ámsterdam © Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

  • Odilon Redon Sommeil de Caliban, c.1912 Musée d'Orsay © RMN (Musée d'Orsay)/ Hervé Lewandowski

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Filed by Priscilla Frank  |