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Odilon Redon: Flights of Fantasy
The most remarkable feature of Redon's work as an artist was the transition in the 1890's from nightmarish visions, worked in monochrome, to vividly colored pastels and oils which in theme and conception are joyful affirmations of life. A more complete metamorphosis is hard to imagine, and yet the two phases of Redon's work, the macabre and the optimistic, are linked by a common concern with the inner spiritual life. Throughout his career Redon sought to express in his work the mysterious invisible world that exists alongside the natural physical world. "I have placed here", he wrote, "a little door opening on to the mysterious." It is because of this that, even before the Symbolist movement began, Redon was a Symbolist, using the imagery of his art to suggest and evoke the world of the imagination. The real roots of Redon's art lie in his most personal experience, and particularly in the memories of his lonely childhood spent at the family estate, Peyrelebade. He later confessed, "it was necessary there to fill one's imagination with the unlikely, for into this exile one had to put something."


Closed Eyes (1890): This quiet work is one of Redon's first oils to treat the subject of the inner life and marks a turning point in his career. Modeled on Redon's wife, the head is a metaphor for spiritual awareness: the lighting, the closed eyes and the tranquil expression all suggest a spiritual state of mind.
Mystery (c. 1905 -07): The enigmatic and contemplative figure has a Christ-like appearance, but Redon makes nothing specific, leaving the spectator free to read whatever he wants into the painting. Redon frequently combined figures with flowers, but it is often difficult to know whether they are mainly decorative or have some deeper significance.
Flowers (1903): Redon always regarded Nature as his model, and in his old age, flowers provided the subject for a large number of his paintings. Sometimes these were highly stylized, or imaginary blooms, and sometimes straightforward, naturalistic depictions of flowers from his garden in the Paris suburb of Bievres.

 

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