Odilon Redon at the Grand Palais

l'Oeil, comme un ballon bizarre se dirige vers L'INFINI, 1882, BNFThis is a fascinating Grand Palais, Paris, exhibit of blacks and greys and eventually color. Was Odilon Redon, a contemporary of Impressionists and their colorful paintings, ahead of his time? He began in charcoals and was a master of lithographs using matted blacks. As a relatively recent medium (invented in 1796) Redon worked with lithographs between the middle and end of the 1800s. Popular with the public, his individual lithographs and those printed in books brought Redon notoriety.

His other artistic contemporaries included Gustav Moreau, the Belgian art circle “Les XX”, Nabis, Cezanne and Gauguin.

This exhibit follows Redon’s chronological development. He worked in charcoal, lithographs and eventually pastels and oil. The eye is a key motif for Redon’s work. It appears in many of Redon’s “noirs” as a metaphoric image of optical and inner vision.  But his use of black (“noir”) gives these images their “monstrous” or dreamy appearance. In the images, it is a gentle, almost innocent eye that looks at the viewer.

Redon wrote in his book, “To myself”,  about black, “black is a most essential color. One must respect black. Nothing prostitutes it. It does not please the eye and it does wakens no sensuality. It is the agent of the mind far more than the most beautiful color of the palette or prism.”

Horses, spiders, hot air balloons, skeletons, crows, an elf on a branch or the devil carrying away the mask of a head (Faust’s soul?) could be frightful, but they’re not. They are fun to look at.

Odilon Redon (1840-1916) is a precursor of realism, a modernist and a symbolist. An art critic eventually dubbed him as the “Prince of Dreams”. He was also a writer and a musician. Redon’s mentor, Rudolph Bresdin, tutored him “in the art of using black and white as an agent of the mind and a visionary language.” It gives the work a mysterious appearance.

He took this visionary language and read between the lines of Poe and Flaubert and the music of Wagner to produce inspired images and write the captions.

As the audio guide explains: “Redon does not like to use the word “illustration”. He finds the word inadequate. Inspired by “The Temptation of Saint Anthony” (La Tentation de saint Antoine) he considers his ten plates as “transmission” or “interpretation” of  Gustave Flaubert’s trilogy. In this work he found new monsters because the work was so descriptive.”

Lithography was still rather young when Odilon Redon was learning its possibilities. Invented in 1796, it would be almost one hundred years old when Redon transitioned to another medium.

Closed Eyes (Yeux clos) 1890 oil, Musee d'Orsay

A turning point for Redon came in 1890. One of his last “noire” lithographs “Closed Eyes” (Yeux close) closed the door on the past. The future was in color. Though popular with audiences, he produced only two more lithographs, both in color. His color period officially began with the color of “Closed Eyes”. He sold this work to the Luxembourg Museum in 1904. His pastels and oils would still bring the eye into focus. Pastel colors  and oil shimmering in rich colors and metals. He work for the Gobelins and the examples of interiors are also displayed.

I find the self-portrait of Odilon Redon (about 1910) interesting. In the painting, half the face is shaded, the other half lit. Holding my hand to cover the expressive, fully-lit side, I see the shaded remnants of his time in the “noirs” and perhaps the source of the eye seen in all of those lithographs.

If you miss this exhibit, many of Redon’s works are on loan from the Musée d’Orsay, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), and the Graphics Department at the Louvre Museum (department des Arts graphiques du musée du Louvre). The show’s 170 art works are on loan internationally from Germany, the United States, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, and England.

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© 2012 Colleensparis.com
Your HOTEL and APARTMENT RESERVATION is a contribution to maintenance costs of my Web site. Using GOOGLE helps, too. THANKS!




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