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The Symbolist -pg 3                                            

After his time in Paris, Redon concluded that he did not have the personality to study art on a formal level.[39]  He decided to return to Bordeaux where he made the acquaintance of  botanist Armand Clavaud.[40]  Clauvaud introduced Redon to a myriad of subjects including Hindu poetry, the writings of Charles Baudelaire, Greek, Medieval, and Italian art and botany. Redon often found inspiration for his work in nature and enjoyed observing his subjects with a microscope.  He later stated that Clavaud’s teaching commenced “the first blossoming of his spirit.”[41]   Three years later Redon befriended artist Rodolphe Bresdin, the epitome for the Bohemian lifestyle, who introduced him to the etching process and further sparked his interest in Delacroix and Symbolist writers. Redon was so influenced by Bresdin that he did not use color in his work for some time and instead worked in black and white.[42]  Of his preference for working in black and white he stated, “black is the essential color of all things,” and “color is too capable of conveying emotion.”[43]

Between the ages of twenty-seven and thirty-seven, Redon exhibited work in the Salon, participated in the Franco-Prussian War, and dealt with the death of his father.[44]  Later, he married a woman named Camille Falte and made the acquaintance of artist Henri Fantin-Latour  who introduced him to lithography, the printmaking method to which his fame is indebted.[45]  Shortly thereafter Redon completed his first series of lithographs, Dans le rêve and at the age of forty was finally acknowledged as a legitimate artist.[46]

During the early 1880s Redon participated in multiple exhibitions and produced a handful of lithographic series including: For Edgar Poe, Hommage à Goya, La tentaion de Sainte Antoine, and Les Origines.[47]   In 1884 he founded the Salon des Indépendants, which would be an alternative to the traditional Salons of the day.[48]  For Redon, the mid-late 1880s were underlined with loss, tragedy, and disillusionment.  His friends Armand Clavaud, Rodolphe Bresdin, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Ernest Chausson, a Romantic composer, passed away.[49]   These men had influenced Redon’s work and played important roles in his life.  It was also during this time that Redon was with friend and art critic Emile Hannequin when he drowned.[50] As if losing so many close friends was not enough, Redon and Camille also had to deal with the death of their first son.[51] Not surprisingly, the 1890s found Redon in a religious conflict and upheaval, believed to be the result of emotional stress.[52]  After suffering from a serious illness in the early-mid 1890s, Redon decided to move away from dark thought and morbid reflection.[53]  In 1894 Redon had his first solo exhibition. He was fifty-four.[54] Three years later he used color in a lithograph.[55]  By 1900 Redon had reached the age of sixty and was officially using color in his work.[56]  It would only be four more years before his prints would be tossed aside and be all but forgotten by a public eager to see Redon’s colorful oils and pastels.[57]  Redon had become a very important figure in the art world and groups of young artists sought him out for guidance and inspiration.  Author Pierre-Louis Mathieu writes,

“Maurice Denis painted a group portrait of his fellow Nabis, as Fantin-Latour had done for his friends a few decades earlier.  He called it Hommage to Cézanne, even though it does not actually include the ageing master himself, who was by then living in seclusion in Aix-en-provence.  Instead, one of Cézanne’s still lifes is depicted standing on an easel…the figure toward whom the young artists in the portrait are turning is in fact Odilon Redon...”[58]

Pierre Bonnard, a member of the Nabis, also commented on the admiration that many artists had for Redon on both a professional and a personal level: “Our entire generation has experienced his charm and received his advice.”[59]  Redon worked in color for the remainder of his life.[60]   He was commissioned to decorate a Salon and a library and continued to participate in exhibitions in France and abroad.[61]  According to the Museum of Modern Art, Redon completed at least 200 graphic editions, 170 of which were lithographs during his lifetime.[62]  In 1916 he died in Paris at the age of seventy-six.[63]

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Important! Footnotes:


[39] Arnason, Modern Art, 57.
[40]
Michael Wilson,  Nature and Imagination: The work of Odilon Redon  (Oxford:  Phaidon Press, 1978), 14.
[41]
Ibid.
[42]
Michael Gibson,  The Symbolists  (New York: Harry Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 1988), 34.
[43]
Koterbay, Lecture.
[44]
Berger, Fantasy and Color, 169, 170.
[45]
Ibid.
[46]
Ibid.
[47]
Ibid, 170, 171.
[48]
Jean Selz,  Odilon Redon  (NY: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1971), 29
[49]
Michael Wilson,  Nature and Imagination: The work of Odilon Redon  (Oxford:  Phaidon Press, 1978), 47-8.
[50]
Ibid.
[51]
Ibid.
[52]
Ibid.
[53]
Ibid.
[54]
Berger, Fantasy and Color, 171.
[55]
Ibid.
[56]
Ibid, 172.
[57]
Ibid.
[58]
Mathieu, Symbolist, 49.
[59]
Museum of Modern Art,  Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau, Rodolphe Bresdin  (Berlin: Brüder Hartmann, 1961), 35.
[60]
Berger, Fantasy and Color, 169-171.
[61]
Ibid.
[62]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  2005-2006.  November 24, 2007.  http://www.studio-international.co.uk/reports/redon.
[63]
Berger, Fantasy and Color, 173.

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