Odilon Redon was an 18th century artist that worked mainly with paint, but also in pastels and prints. His full name was Bertrand-Jean Redon, but his mother called him Odilon from a very young age and the name stuck. When Redon was fifteen he wished to begin the study of painting, though he wound up pursuing architecture instead at the insistence of his father. But Redon was not fated to become an architect and he failed the necessary tests to continue studying. Not long after he took up art in the form of sculpture and painting. Once again, his studies were interrupted, this time by the Franco-Prussian War.
Redon’s artist career didn’t really begin until the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Many the paintings Redon completed were still lifes, many of which were of bouquets of flowers, as well as portraits and other depictions of people. Redon’s painting Portrait of Madame Arthur Fontaine is a fine example of the types of portraits which he completed. It isn’t quite Impressionistic, nor is it Post-Impressionistic, but something different entirely. The soft, wispy figure is ghostlike, her face a pale white, features barely discernable. The yellow dress and the blue flowers are the brightest features of the painting. The rest is murky, all grays, blues, and whites, that create a very dreamlike world which we are only able to glimpse but not enter. The woman doesn’t seem to notice that anyone watches, instead completely absorbed by her stitching.
Another painting with the same loose and flowing bush work is Redon’s Bouquet of Flowers in a Green Vase. This, however, is a very different painting. The color palate is bright and cheerful, not at all the dim, murky world as before. The flowers are in an array of bright colors and are of all varieties. Flowers big and small coexist in disarrayed harmony, not at all the perfectly arranged grouping of flowers normally received from a florist but the bouquet of wild flowers put together with love, if not skill. This makes the painting more real, more like something that we would find in our homes, and therefore completely relatable to the viewer. The vase too is a cheerful green. There is not table on which the flowers sit, nor is there any kind of distinct background. Instead, there is just a plain backdrop of various tones of beige.
Redon’s work is very varied in tone and style. All of his works have a the loose, flowing style done in a careful, loving hand. Redon was a wonderful painter whose work is as timeless as it is beautiful.
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