04/20/2012 08:01 am ET

Happy Birthday, Odilon Redon! (PHOTOS)

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