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Posts Tagged ‘Odilon Redon’

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While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality… true art lies in a reality that is felt.

–Odilon Redon
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Love this quote from the French artist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). His work certainly reflected this thought, most generally having deep emotional tones.
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I first came across his work in the form of a book of his drawings. I thought that was his dominant form of expression until I began to look deeper into his paintings. The boldness, purity and harmonies of his colors struck me. The colors alone carried the emotional weight of many of his paintings, seemingly allowing the viewer to sense its tone and message in a single glimpse. Longer observation is rewarded as one better sees the subtlety in Redon’s expression.
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I am definitely a fan of Odilon Redon and,  even though our styles and methods greatly differ, try to carry that idea of felt reality into my own work. Here’s a video that gives a nice overview of his paintings.
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Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin- First Version

I am a fan of the Symbolist painters from  around the end of the 19th century, artists like Edvard Munch, Gustav KlimtOdilon Redon. and many others created incredible works that were just a little beyond reality but beautiful and with a presence that lingered with the viewer. There are many great examples but one of those paintings with a lingering effect is the Isle of the Dead from  Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901).

Depicting an island where the bodies of the dead were interred, it is a powerful and somber image. Several locations are reputed to be the inspiration for this painting, including several tiny Mediterranean islands with similar cypress trees and chapels. Some believe it to be based on a cemetery in Florence, Italy near the artist’s studio where his infant daughter was buried.

Böcklin lost 8 of his 14 children to death, so the concept of death was something that was always near. This was not that uncommon in that time. Most families lost one or more children in early childhood and death was an accepted part of this world. During this time, at the end of the 19th century, it wasn’t unusual for a family to take portraits of their loved ones soon after they died.

Böcklin painted five versions of this instantly popular work for collectors. One version, the third, was bought by Adolf Hitler in 1933 and now hangs in the National Gallery in Berlin. Another, the fourth, was destroyed by a bombing raid in World War II and only exists now as a black and white photograph.

This painting had something  with which people deeply identified and it was the new popularity of mass produced lithographic prints in the time that gave it staying power. It was said that one couldn’t enter a Berlin home at the turn of the century without coming across a print of the painting on the wall. This image has maintained quite a bit of its following through the years, even having websites dedicated to it.

As I said, it is a powerful image that lingers in your mind long after you see it. I know it does for me. It has definitely been a huge influence on a number of painters and other artists.

In 1888, Böcklin created a painting, Isle of Life (see below), that he considered the converse image to his now famous Isle of the Dead.  It has living people, animals, greenery and a generally more upbeat appearance. But it certainly doesn’t come close to the soul jolting impact of its antithesis.

But you be the judge…

Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin- Fifth Version

Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin-Second Version

Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin-Fourth Version Destroyed

Isle of Life – Arnold Böcklin

Isle of the Dead – Arnold Böcklin- Third Version

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Odilon Redon- The Cyclops 1914I am certain about what I will never do – but not about what my art will render.

–Odilon Redon

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When I came across this quote from the great French Symbolist painter/printmaker Odilon Redon, I found myself nodding in agreement.  There are many things I know that I will never do with my work mainly because these things don’t inspire me to take the time to make the effort.  But about those things where I do make the the effort,  I am never quite sure where they will take me or how they will surprise me or how they will reach out to others in ways I never imagined.

And that is the thing, the driving force, that keeps me coming back to this studio each morning: the hope that this will be the day that brings that next surprise, that next thing that remains a wonder to myself.

By the way, you should really take a few moments and check out the work of Odilon Redilon.  He was one of the most influential painters around the turn of the 20th century and set the groundwork for a lot of modern movements.  Plus, his prints and paintings are just plain interesting to take in, with a mysterious twist and symbolism that feels both psychological and spiritual.  The eye in the sky is a recurring form in his work as you see in the painting at the top, The Cyclops.  His one-eyed creature has a different feel than that of the more terrifying one in Homer’s Odyssey.  Redon’s has an almost protective, paternal feel.  It feels odd but inviting.

Here is a site ( click here)with most of his known paintings although not much if any  of his print work.  It’s worth a look.

Odilon Redon - Eye  Balloon-1898 Odilon Redon Flower Clouds 1903

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