We want to wish a happy birthday to one of our personal favorites: Bertrand-Jean Redon, aka Odilon Redon. The artist, who would be 172 today, created scenes that floated somewhere between sleeping and waking life.
Hallucinatory colors depicted pseudoscientific monsters that looked real but defied logic. He never followed trends and never obeyed the rules of artistic success, leaving behind a collection that looks radically ahead of his time.
Redon was born in 1840 in Bordeaux. In his youth, he took up sculpture after he was rejected from architecture school. He soon became immersed in Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe and the music of Claude Debussy. This may explain the darkness present in Redon's early works, which were predominately black-and-white charcoals. Mutated, terrifying creatures dominated this macabre period which Redon called "le noirs." However, in "Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon," Paul Gauguin says, "If we look closely at Redon's profound art, we find little trace of 'monsters' in it." Gauguin called them "imaginary beings" instead, and moved on.
However you choose to call these creatures, in the 1890's these nightmares turned into dreams as Redon's works suddenly became full of optimism and whimsy. His scenes combined romantic literature, religious myth and children's stories in colorful washes of pastel.
In a review of the 1868 Paris Salon, Redon wrote: "True art lies in a reality that is felt." Keep dreaming, dreamers!
Wish the symbolist legend a dreamy birthday with us and check out works from his recent exhibition in Madrid below.
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