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Odilon Redon

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Odilon Redon
Modern (19th century-1945) Graphic Arts
(Bordeaux, France, April 20, 1840 - July 6, 1916, Paris, France)

Odilon Redon was a Symbolist painter and printmaker whose "pictorial metaphors" linked fantasy and the unconscious to the natural world. Born in Bordeaux, France on April 20, 1840, Redon studied drawing and painting, and his artistic style came to maturity in the 1870s. He published his first lithographic series in 1879 and had his first exhibition of drawings--the 'Noirs'--in 1881. Much of Redon's work evokes the dark world of macabre fantasy, similar to Francisco de Goya's art and Edgar Allan Poe's writing. He dedicated lithographic series to both these men, creating 'To Edgar Poe' in 1882 and 'Homage to Goya' in 1885. Flaubert's 'La Tentation de Saint Antoine,' as well as the writing of Baudelaire and the music of Richard Wagner also inspired Redon's imagery. Redon's technique was also informed by a wide array of influences. His light and color reflect Camille Corot; his use of darkness and sfumato reveal Rembrandt van Rijn and Leonardo da Vinci; and his line is reminiscent of Albrecht Dürer. Redon united these influences in velvety charcoal drawings and lithographs that evoked a dark world of hallucination. At the recommendation of his botanist friend Armand Clavaud, Redon studied living beings, adding bizarre yet lifelike creatures to many of his works. His style saw a major change in 1895, when he shifted from black and white to color and from painting to pastels. Redon's infatuation with the macabre abated, and by 1900 he abandoned his 'Noirs.' He explored nature, producing inventive, true to life floral studies. His increasingly decorative tone and rich colors and textures won him new commissions, including wall paintings for the library at Fontfroide Abbey in 1910-1. Redon was a contemporary of the Impressionists, exhibiting with them in 1886, both at Les XX in Brussels and in the final Impressionist show. Nevertheless, his style broke with Impressionism, meshing instead with later movements. Redon helped establish the Société de Artistes Indépendants in 1884 and was regarded as the foremost Symbolist artist by 1886. His use of color inspired the Post-Impressionists, and his exhibition at the Salon d'Automne in 1904 contributed to the advent of Fauvism. Additionally, his primitive forms and visual paradoxes were precursors of Abstract Expressionism and Dadaism/Surrealism, respectively. Odilon Redon died in Paris on July 6, 1916.


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