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Odilon Redon Artist Biography

Odilon Redon was a symbolist painter, lithographer, and etcher of considerable poetic sensitivity and imagination, whose work has had many admirers’ over the years including artists such as Henri Matisse. The Surrealists regarded Odilon Redon as one of their greatest predecessors. Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux in 1840 and studied drawing early on under an artist named Stanislas Gorin, who introduced Redon to the principles of Romantic art. Upon finishing school, Odilon Redon failed to be accepted for the architectural class of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and therefore remained in Bordeaux where he took up sculpture.

Around 1861, Odilon Redon was introduced to the writings of Flaubert, Baudelaire and Edgar Allen Poe, three authors who would be greatly influential on his drawings. In 1864, however, he was accepted to the Ecole des Beaux Arts to study painting. The art establishment represented values he couldn't tolerate and he backed away from the system consigning himself to obscurity. Odilon Redon found guidance instead from Rodolphe Bresdin who had also rejected the official art world. He introduced him to Rembrandt and Dürer and taught him how nature can be utterly transformed by the broadness of one's imagination. So Odilon Redon turned to graphic art, working mainly in black and white, giving expression to the mysterious and the fantastic.

His artistic career was interrupted in 1870 when he joined the army to serve in the Franco-Prussian War. At the end of the war, he moved to Paris, working almost exclusively in charcoal and lithography. It would not be until 1878 that his work gained any recognition with Guardian Spirit of the Waters, and he published his first album of lithographs, titled Dans le Rêve, in 1879. Still, Odilon Redon remained relatively unknown until the appearance in 1884 of a cult novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans titled, rebours (Against Nature). The story featured a decadent aristocrat who collected his drawings.

After recovering from a religious crisis and major illness in the 1890s, Odilon Redon's outlook became much more optimistic. The sombre tones were replaced by bright colours and scenes of idealistic beauty often taking mythological themes as his inspiration. In 1899, he exhibited with the Nabis at Durand-Ruel's. In 1903 he was awarded the Legion of Honor. His popularity increased when a catalogue of etchings and lithographs was published by Andre Mellerio in 1913 and that same year, he was given the largest single representation at the New York Armory Show. In 1923, Mellerio published: Odilon Redon: Peintre Dessinateur et Graveur.

He died in 1916. In 2005 the Museum of Modern Art launched an exhibition entitled "Beyond The Visible", a comprehensive overview of Redon's work showcasing more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints and books from The Ian Woodner Family Collection. The exhibition ran from October 30, 2005 to January 23, 2006. "...The artist... will always be a special, isolated, solitary agent, with an innate sense of organising matter." Odilon Redon.

More art prints from Odilon Redon

The Birth of Venus By Odilon Redon
The Buddha By Odilon Redon
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