Odilon Redon
(1840 - 1916)


Birth of Bertrand-Jean Redon, known as Odilon, April 20 in Bordeaux, to the 24 street Neuve Saint-Seurin (Today the 31st, Fernand-Marin Street). Second Son of Bertrand Redon and Marie Guerin. The family will move little after the birth of Odilon to go to the 26th of the Damour alleys (this house disappeared today).


The young Odilon is entrusted to his uncle and passes his childhood in the familial estate of Peyrelebade, close to Listrac in the Medoc. This property is a " middle-class vintage " whose vines that are next to those of the well-known Château Clarke produced an excellent red wine.
Peyrelebade is at the origin of a significant part of the work of Odilon Redon. It is there, " in full solitude of the countryside " that the charcoals will be born. The environment of this native medocian soil, full with obscure lights and nuances woke up these strange worlds and these phantasmagoric daydreams which will be present all its life in his work. The trees and the characters spout out the tender and wet mucilage formed by the ground that Huysmans will describe later with its poetic manner.


School in Bordeaux.


Lessons of drawing with his first Master, Stanislas Gorin, educated by Eugene Isabey d’Héroult, specialized in the watercolor. Gorin encouraged Odilon to copy and decompose the " works enthusiastic and impassioned of Delacroix " exposed to the Museum of Bordeaux.


Studies of architecture to please his father. He fails the examinations. He will keep these studies a rigorous precision in his drawings of the Old Bordeaux as well as a certain predilection for the geometrical forms. He binds friendship with the botanist Armand Clavaud who initiates him with sciences and the literature. He passions himself for the evolutionary thesis of the naturalist Lamarck and Darwin on the problem of the origins, as well as in the researches of Pasteur on the microbes. Odilon Redon also initiates himself with Clavaud about Hindu Epics. He reads for the first time, " the Flowers of the Evil " of Baudelaire, which will inspire to him the topic of the Fallen angel.


Participation in the exposures of the association of the Friends of Arts of Bordeaux where he exposes watercolored landscapes strongly inspired by works of Gorin that will be worth criticisms to him.

Travels in the Pyrénées in Uhart at his friend Berdoly, and to Spain.


Creation of Roland à Roncevaux, one of the very first known work painted by the artist.


In Bordeaux,
Rodolphe Bresdin becomes his friend and initiates him with the etching and the lithography. Bresdin fascinates Odilon Redon and a relation Master with pupil is born. Odilon Redon appreciates the disconcerting poetry of works visionaries of Bresdin and by the miraculous and instinctive faculty which was his " to raise the spirit in the area of the mystery ".


To Paris, he enters the free workshop of Gérome at the Beaux-Arts schools.


He begins a series of eleven “eaux-fortes” in collaboration and under the technical direction of Bresdin. They will be drawn until 1866 at Delâtre, the appointed printer of the company of the Aquafortistes. The influence of Delacroix and Dauzat is very present in this style romantic and orientalist that Odilon adopted for this series of “eaux-fortes”. He adopts also the technical characters of Bresdin in its etchings: small sizes, cuts small, density of volumes, compositions very precise and rich. He introduces also the famous clearly-obscure (clair-obscur) of Rembrandt. Redon getting inspiration from Delacroix and its intense scenes of battle paints " the Crusaders close to the Sea " which will be taken again in 1867 in a work rediscovered after its death and which will be sold to Frizeau by Ary Leblond, " the Crusaders " .


Odilon Redon presents a succession of seven eaux-fortes, drawings and charcoal conferred by a " glance of satisfaction " by criticisms of Bordeaux.


He writes reports for the Parisian Show of 1868 for the newspaper " La Gironde ". Odilon Redon condemns in his articles the surrealism of the " local " painters. During the summer, he remains in Barbizon where he meets Corot. He encourages the municipality of Bordeaux to buy a series representative of the work of Bresdin.


" Roland à Roncevaux " presented at the 19th Show of Arts. At the request of his friend, the architect Carré, he paints a large mural fresco in a chapel at Arras. During the war, Odilon Redon like private, takes part in the engagements on the Loire. After the war, he settles in Paris, in the district of Montparnasse. During the summer, Odilon frequently goes back in the family property of Peyrelebade. The majority of its charcoals will be conceived this year. He remains with the autumn in Brittany " Pégase ", "the Fallen angel". As from 1870, Odilon inclines towards cosmogonic developments of its works where the organic elements are replaced by geometric standards. First trip in Brittany.


Odilon Redon patronizes the lounge of literary and musical of Mrs. Rayssac and meets there Fantin-latour and Chevanard as well as the musician Ernest Chausson and the poet Janmot.


His father dies and leaves his family with no money.


During the spring, Odilon Redon studies the trees and the Underwood at Barbizon. In July, he goes to Brittany. 1875 to 1880, it is the " most distressed period " of his "
Blacks "(Les Noirs). The topic of the Prisoner is often described in his works, appearing sometimes behind the bars of a window or isolated in the nightmare from a solitary daydream or an obsessing evilish hallucination.


Redon is impassioned for the lithography and wants to carry out a succession of boards inspired by Pascal. The project will not come out.


First voyage in Belgium and Holland where he discovers and admires the work of the Flemish School and Rembrandt " Rembrandt gave me always new surprises of art. He is the great human element of the infinity of our ecstasy, he gave the moral life to the shade. He created the clair-obscur like Phidias did the line. And all the mysteries comprises in the modeling are from now on possible only by him, for the new cycle of art he opened out of the pagan reason ".
Stay with Uhart. Fantin-Latour initiates Redon with the technique of paper carryforward (papier report).


First lithographic album of Odilon Redon: “In the Dream”, an album of ten boards "collection of some varied old parts, but in which, fascinated with the new process ", Redon made " a lithography of jet ". He is precursory of the psychoanalysis and seeks through the dream, the descent in the unconscious that enables him to drill the source of the inspiration and to describe its " personal atmosphere ". Redon starts to approach the topic of the genesis egg, of the original spore: Hiranyagarbha, symbol of the Universal Spirit among Hindus.


May 1, Odilon Redon marries
Camille Falte, Creole young person from the Bourbon Island met in the aristocratic salon of Madame de Rayssac. The honeymoon takes place in Brittany and Odilon Redon makes his first pastels. The young girl charms Redon and he admires " the Dreamer ". The couple will be happy and Camille will deal with the merchants and the press. Contacts privileged with some young Belgian Symbolists.


Exposure of his charcoals at the Vie Moderne (Modern Life) : the greeting there is very reserved. Odilon takes as a starting point the painting of Gustave Moreau for his cycle of Orphée. He carries out the first version of his spider with charcoal, this hybrid of insect and human represents the nature handled and proportioned by the human being and his science.


Second exposure of his " Blacks " at the Gaulois in Paris. Publication of his second album : “To Edgar Poe”, true homage to the poet in a series of six lithographs. Edgar Poe at this time was translated by Mallarmé and Hennequin who translated the Grotesque Tales. Odilon Redon binds friendship with Hennequin and Huysmans who presents Mallarmé to him.


He stays in Brittany, the
Origins appear, printed by Lemercier and Co, Paris. It is an album of eight lithographs which recalls the mystical forms of the imagination of the poets, the arrival of the man on earth. The first seven boards evoke the creation of the world. The album does not include any legend because " the title was already very heavy ". He presents " Béatrix " (charcoal) at the Salon Exhibition.


Some young artists call Odilon Redon for the creation of the First Free Show and he presides the meeting where was founded the Company of the Independent Artists. He will take part in the two following exposures. Huysmans publishes “ Wrong way” (A Rebours) with a passage devoted to the art of Odilon Redon. His brother Léo and his sister Marie die with little time of interval.


Bresdin dies. The Homage to Goya, a group of six lithographic boards appears at Dumont, printed by Lemercier and Co in Paris. There is not real emotional attachment with the famous Spanish painter in this work, but it will contribute to seal a deep friendship between Redon and Mallarmé, the painter having sent a specimen to the poet. Mallarmé and Huysmans will not dry up eulogistic and admiring articles regard to this album.


Birth of its first son
Jean on May 11th, but he dies on November 27th, this painful experiment will leave him a " melancholic person faintness " and will lock up the artist in a mystical crisis which will stay until the birth of its second son. Odilon Redon exposes at the Show of the XX in Brussels with Gauguin, he will also present there some lithographs belonging to his friends, the poet Emile Verhaeren and Jules Destrées. He collaborates to the Wagnerian Review with Fantin-Latour. He publishes "The Night" and is thus a prelude of the anxiety translated by the modern art about signs announcing a world vowed to its loss.

He presents "Profile of Light" (charcoal) and pays homage to his Master by the portrait of Bresdin dedicated to "The Old age". Odilon Redon wearies himself to expose in Bordeaux because the association of the Friends of Arts is ossified by amateurs who wearied all the painters of the period.
The Spider is transposed in lithography and is printed with 25 specimens.
Odilon Redon carries out a frontispice for a work from Emile Verhaeven, " Idol ".
For the monodrame in five acts of Edmond Picard, The Juror, Odilon Redon composes seven lithographs as well as one of the two engraved portraits inset. The other being realized by Théo van Rysselbergue; each lithography, printed on imperial Japan is protected by one curves with printed legend; printed in two colors, black and sepia. The hard copy of this first edition which is realized in Brussels is carried out 100 specimens on paper Holland, some other personal specimens will be also printed.


First series of lithographs for the Temptation of Saint-Anthony from Flaubert. This series includes ten lithographs. The complete cycle will include 42 lithographs in three albums. The grandiloquent writing of Flaubert was respected and is being a mine of inspiration for Odilon Redon who finds there a source of mysteries and some new monsters almost infinite. Formation of the Nabis movement inspired by Gauguin and Redon.


Second album devoted to the work of Flaubert " the Temptation of Saint Anthony ": To Gustave Flaubert. This series includes/understands six lithographs. Odilon Redon takes part in the first exposure of the artist engravers at Duran-Ruel.
He becomes acquainted with André Mellerio who presents him to
Maurice Denis and to the Nabis.
Birth of his son
Arï on April 30th. Arï born and is baptized on August 4th in Samois.
The " Sleep " where the hand seals the eyes, is inspired by these verses:
" Over there in the dark country where no road hug,
Idol what do you see, far from the dull sun? "
Odilon Redon carries out a frontispice for the " Routs " of Emile Verhaeven.


Closer contacts with Gauguin. In February, he exposes at the show of the XX in Brussels invited by the Expressionists. He gives up now little by little the " Blacks " with the charcoal, with the profit of clearness of the pastel and painting, but without rupture however. The frequentation of famous colorists like Vuillard and Bonnard contributed to this change. Armand Clavaud commits suicide on December 1st, Odilon Redon is upset by " the inexorable ", "... his death left me a faintness... ". " The closed Eyes " shows those who cannot open any more if it is not on darkness. This work will be the first acquisition of the national museums in France.
Odilon Redon carries out a frontispice for the " Black Torches " of his friend Emile Verhaeven. He publishes in Belgium, the " Flowers of the Evil " composed by 9 boards of “interpretations ". Each illustration remains faithful to the baudelairian style, but the technique of impression was invented by Evely and consists in a reproduction by copper plate. He meets Vuillard in Villeneuve-Saint-George at Natanson’s house.


Odilon Redon publishes the Dreams, dedicated to Armand Clavaud who had so much contributed to form his thought. Jules Destrée publishes the first catalogue of Redon’s lithographic work in Brussels. " the Day " (Lithography). After the departure of Gauguin, Odilon Redon takes a dominating place at the Nabis group who are all attending his lounge of the Wagram Avenue in Paris. Maurice Denis evokes the influence of Redon on his group: " Before the influence of Cézanne, through Gauguin and Bernard, it is the thought of Redon, by his series of lithographs and his admirable charcoals which determined in a spiritualistic direction the evolution of art in 1890 ".


Roger-Marx analyzes the range of the symbolism of Odilon Redon in the Voltaire newspaper. 4th Exposure of the Painters Engravers at the Duran-Ruel art gallery.


Odilon Redon takes part of the show of the Free Esthetics, which succeeded the show of the XX in Brussels. He will take part of it until 1914. Thanks to André Bonger, the art of Redon is diffused in Holland and becomes extraordinary famous.


In April, Durand-Ruel organizes a retrospective exposure of his work, where there will be exposed in particular a lithography of the Closed Eyes (N°108).
Lithograph "
Obsession ", this first state is extremely rare because Odilon had not succeeded in improving it. Mellerio (1894, Mellerio 1923, N°128) describes it : " Odilon Redon had drawn a kind of Marguerite de Faust, walking as hypnotized by Mephisto, who is behind her pushing her ahead ". In the second state, definitely modified, Mephisto is replaced by " three odd larvae ". Until this year, a wave of Catholicism breaks on France and Redon will be somewhat influenced by it.


He entrusts in a letter to Emile Bernard: "... I forsake the black more and more. Between us, it exhausted me a lot ". Odilon Redon binds friendship with Bonnard.


Publication of two lithographic albums: " the House haunted " according to a text of Bulwer-Lytton and a third series on the Temptation of Saint-Anthony of Flaubert. This last series of prints is most significant with 24 boards where Redon " seeks a simplification in the plays of line ". Interesting Anecdote, board XVII is the only lithography of the work of the painter approaching the topic of the Tank of Apollo. First appearance of


From April to November, Odilon Redon remains in Peyrelebade before selling the property and leave in September to the Goa Villa, which he will call the Goya Villa, at Saint-Georges de Didonne, on the estuary of the Gironde, close to Royan and he continues his work of landscape designer there.


Exposure at Ambroise Vollard : a success. Odilon Redon spends the summer at Saint-Georges de Didonne. Mallarmé dies on September 9th, 1898 in Valvins.


Ambroise Vollard orders the Apocalypse of Saint-John who will be the last great lithographic serie of the painter. Twelve lithographs with frontispice compose the album. Odilon Redon works there for the last once the Black and evolves to the lyricism of the colors and the light. The Duran-Ruel gallery presents a " homage to Odilon Redon " and around its works, are presented those of the Nabis group. In fact all the neo-impressionist tendencies, synthetistes or independents are represented there.


Maurice Denis paints " the Homage to Cézanne ", where Redon is represented surrounded by young Nabis artists. In fact Redon is the elder one there, the Master, the intercessor between the young people of the Nabis and the revolted of Aix. Vollard wants to publish without reaching " a toss of dice that will never abolish the chance " of Mallarmé, illustrated by Redon, which was appeared in May 1897 in the Cosmopolis review. In fact, Redon and Mallarmé worked together all the winter of 1897-1898 to leave this collection made up of a series of four lithography and Vollard was the publisher. Mallarmé dies on September 9th, 1898 and Redon stopped his work. The first three boards were sold in separate sheets and the fourth was lost.
A sanguine of “the Closed Eyes” from the Pontremoli collection is exposed in Paris at the centennial of the French Art (N°1281). Exhibition of Odilon Redon at the
Duran-Ruel gallery.


Odilon Redon binds friendship with Gustave Fayet, originally from the area of Béziers and coming from a family of rich winegrowers. Vuillard remains with Odilon Redon at Saint-Georges de Didonne. He carries out decorative Paintings for Ernest Chausson in Paris, and remains in Burgundy at the Castle of his friend, Robert de Domecy. He takes part in the Show of Free Esthetics in Brussels and the exhibition of the National Company of the Beaux-Arts school in Paris.


Odilon Redon is introduced by his friend of childhood the painter Charles Lacoste to Gabriel Frizeau. A sincere friendship is born between the painter and the patron from Bordeaux impassioned from art and beautiful letters.


A room is entirely devoted to him at the Autumn Show in the Petit Palais of Paris, comprising 62 works. The Museum of Luxembourg in Paris acquires " the Closed Eyes ". Inspired by the model Alphonsine Zabé, Redon approaches since January, the topic of naked females with Eve where contour wraps the nudity of the model ".
Women "...” I see in them all the woman without finding a woman there, and this exquisite...”. "


Autumn Show at Paris.


Odilon Redon, trying to repurchase Peyrelebade, organizes a great auction sale of his works at the auction house of Drouot. Personal exposure at the Kunstzaal Reckers of Rotterdam.


In April, Odilon Redon travels to Venice and in Italy, accompanied by his wife, his son and Arthur Fontaine. He produces his first paperboards of tapestry for the Gobelin Manufacture at the request of Gustave Geffroy. He pays homage to Bresdin with the Autumn Show and writes the forewords of the catalogue " Stained glass " (Frizeau collection)


He spends the summer tin Bièvres (southwest suburb of Paris) after the death of
Juliette Dodu, the stepsister of his wife. Not having been able to repurchase the villa of his Sister-in-law, Redon rents a beautiful villa, the Juliette’s villa where from now, he will spend his summers. In Bièvres, the painter finds calms it, plenitude and starts again to paint large trees.
Gustave Fayet acquires one of the last versions of the " Tank of Apollo ", topic taken again on the panel " the Day " of the Abbey of Fontfroide.


He decorates the library of the Cistercian Abbey of Fontfroide for Gustave Fayet. The Abbey was until the 18th century the arts center of Languedoc area, then put at the abandonment. Arï makes its military service in Versailles. Redon is painting many butterflies as those on the panel " the Night ". They are signs of metamorphoses and Redon was pleased to make burst the chrysalis in " winged flowers of lights ". The painter also likes himself to sow his flowers, and then be able to compose some sumptuous bouquets that he will paint. Redon finishes some paperboards of furniture for the manufacture of the Gobelins.


Weaving of the first models by Odilon Redon.


The Armory Show presents his works to the American continent in New York (International exhibition of Modern Art), Chicago and Boston. André Mellerio publishes the catalogue of his work engraved and lithographed.


Arï is mobilized for the War. Homage to Alsace invaded and hurt: Odilon Redon who fought in 1870 take party against Germany violently.


Paintings by Odilon Redon at the John Herron Art Institute of Indianapolis and Second Exhibition of Contemporary French Art at the Caroll gallery of New York.


Odilon Redon dies on July 6th, in Paris. The " Virgin ", an oil on canvas is left unfinished.


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