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Odilon Redon


Redon’s (1840–1916) oeuvre studied the movements of thought in dark and secret areas of the human mind. His works are reminiscent of dream images or visions, in a limited range of colours. Over time he introduced lyricism and more colour into his paintings to counterbalance his early melancholy.

Redon was born in Bordeaux and spent his childhood on the family estate at Peyrelebade in the Médoc. After studying at Jean-Léon Gérôme’s studio in Paris, Redon returned to Bordeaux, where the engraver Rodolphe Bresdin initiated him into etching and lithography. After serving in the Franco-Prussian War he settled in Paris and began to work exclusively in charcoal, producing mystical drawings that he called Blacks (Noirs). His first set of lithographs deriving from these drawings was published in 1879 under the title Dans le Rêve. Next came À Edgar Poe (1882), Les Origines (1883), Hommage à Goya (1885) and other albums, often inspired by or accompanying Symbolist texts.

Redon exhibited at all the independent art venues in the 1880s, including the Salon des Indépendants, the last Impressionist exhibition, the Salon des XX in Brussels and the Vienna Secession. Also a symbolist author, he was close to writers such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Jean Moréas and Paul Valéry. From the 1890s, Redon began to use colour, first in pastels then in oil paintings. He was highly esteemed by the sunsequent generation of artists, especially the Nabis.