French painter Odilon Redon
French painter Odilon Redon (April 20, 1840 – July 6, 1916) was one of the founders of the symbolism and the Society of Independent Artists. Creativity of Redon is divided into two periods: the “black” depicting human subconscious with his fears and nightmares, and “colored” with still life flowers and landscapes. Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux April 20, 1840 in a family of entrepreneurs. The future artist spent his childhood in family estate Peyerbald, located a few miles southwest of Bordeaux. Here he was left in the care of a nurse for eleven years. It is likely that the boy suffered from seizures and epilepsy, parents deliberately hid him from the eyes of friends.
In 1851 Odilon returned to his family and went to school. In 1857 Redon tried to enter the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, but failed the first test. From 1855 he studied at the local Bordeaux romantic artist Stanislav Goren, who taught him the art of watercolor. Here, three years later, was the debut of Redon – at the annual exhibition of the Society of Art Lovers, he showed two of his paintings.
Around the same time, the elder brother of the artist introduces him to a circle of young intellectuals. Here, in 1863, Odilon Redon met Rodolphe Bresdin, draughtsman and engraver, Odilon Redon was his pupil. In 1864 he was engaged in the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris at Jean Leon Gerome. Odilon Redon studied lithography at Henri Fantin-Latour. Thanks to his new comrades Redon met with poetry of Charles Baudelaire, performing the strong impression on him.
In 1865-1870 Redon works, mainly with coal, then black and white lithographs, creating large sheets which are called “black” or “blackness”. From 1867 till 1915 Odilon Redon kept a diary called “myself”, in which he outlined his views on art and creativity.
Being morbidly hypochondriac person Redon long time could not find his place in art, did not believe that could create something worthwhile. In 1868, for example, when Redon’s painting “Roland at Ronsevalya” was adopted by the commission of the Paris Salon, at the last moment, fearing criticism, he took his work back.
The turning point in the artist’s life was 1870. The artist was enlisted to the army (Franco-Prussian War) and, to the surprise of the home and friends, proved himself a brave and steadfast warrior. For France, the war ended in humiliating peace, but it gave Redon confidence. Even then, the gloomy vision didn’t leave him.
In March 1874 his father died, and it was a great shock for the artist, although he was never able to get rid of their resentment toward him for the “homeless” childhood. However, the death of his father allowed Redon fully devote himself to art. The artist moved to Paris, met with Stephane Mallarme – French poet and critic.
1879: Redon decided finally to release an album of his drawings reproduced lithographically. This album called “In Dreams” (“In the dream world”), attracted the attention of only a few connoisseurs and art collectors. These series were followed by others – “Edgar Poe” (1882), “Origins” (1883), “In honor of Goya” (1885), “The Temptation of St. Anthony” (1888, 1889, 1896), “Gustave Flaubert” (1889), “Flowers of Evil” (1890), “Apocalypse” (1899). In 1881 Redon first exhibited in the premises of the “Wee modern” all his “black” paintings. In 1886 Odilon Redon participated in the eighth and last Impressionist exhibition. All of these series were inhabited by strange creatures, filled with bizarre imagery.
In 1880, the artist married Camilla Falt (1852-1923), Creole of French colony of Reunion. This marriage was an extremely happy, although the couple had to endure great sorrow – at six months of age died their firstborn. The artist was so depressed that some time could not work. In 1889 his second son was born. His birth helped Redon cure depression.
Since 1890 Redon turned increasingly to oil painting, pastels, experimenting with color. In these works he tries to convey the inner world of man. This stage is characterized by creativity with multicolor gamma and colorful topics: butterflies, flowers, woman against a bright landscape. In 1899 Durand-Ruel organized an exhibition of young artists called “In honor of Redon,” which presented his pastels.
The income of Redon, meanwhile, was difficult. He had to sell the estate Peyerbald, where he spent his childhood. It was sold almost for nothing, it could not cover all the debts of the artist. Looking for a way out of debt, Redon began writing floral still lifes, which were popular and sold well.
In 1906, at the Galerie Durand-Ruel was an exhibition of works by Redo – in the Salon d’Automne. In 1913 the artist’s works were exhibited at the International Exhibition in New York.
Odilon Redon died in Paris on July 6, 1916. “I am happy with my life – wrote a master in the last decade of his life – and quietly go to meet fate”.
In his “black” period Redon, passionate about human subconscious with his fears and nightmares, created intrusive and sometimes eerie charcoal drawings and printed graphics. “Black – said Redon – born in the innermost depths of the soul.” Particularly known for his drawing of a Black raven (1882) – messenger of death, as well as a huge hairy spider image with a human face. Another important topic was the huge eyes, for example, a drawing of an eye, which is both the balloon gondola, or an egg with a face on the stand, symbolizing claustrophobic nightmare.
Engraving of ‘Parsifal’ (1891) – graphic replica on Richard Wagner’s opera of the same name, which shook Paris in the mid 80-ies. In these compositions, anxiety dominates in Redon, “prosurreal” alienation or otherworldly mystical contemplation (especially in his Christian and Buddhist stories).