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Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
La barque
signed with monogram (centre right)
pastel on paper
21.3/8 x 27.1/8in. (54.3 x 69.6cm.)
Executed circa 1900
Otto Henkell, Wiesbaden (acquired before 1914)
Fann Schniewind, Neviges
Bettina Rinke, Eningen
Acquired from the above by the late owner in 1983 through Dr Ewald Rathke, Frankfurt am Main
Kunstkammer an Rhein und Ruhr, Leverkusen, Stdtisches Museum, Schloss Morsbroich, October-November 1959, no. 2

Lot Essay

The sea held great importance for Redon who devoted much of his oeuvre to the subject. For the artist, ships had a personal, comforting association with a rocking cradle. As he wrote: 'Beautiful and sweet ships, gently lifted by the eternal wave, you float in a friendly harbour... and the soft wind, and the rhythm of the tide cradle the spirit like a gentle harmony.' (see exh. cat. Odilon Redon, The Art Institute, Chicago, 1994, p. 233).

The present work, drawn circa 1900, belongs to the bright and colourful pastel series which Redon executed between 1890 and 1900. The motif of the ship has usually been associated with the biblical navicella, protected by Christ during a storm on the Sea of Galilee. Yet, as was his custom and desire, Redon's ambiguity has often prompted various interpretations of the symbolism implied by the artist. The ship could be associated with love, religion, travel, or solitude. Redon never placed limits but rather believed that a subject should never restrict one's freedom of expression or interpretation.

La barque is a melancholic image of a solitary voyage. Figures are usually minute in comparison to the boats whose predominance into the compositions clearly betray the artist's attraction to the subject. Redon's poem, soi mme, reflects this fascination:
'Belles et dociles barques, si chres au matelot, que portez-vous au fond de la nacelle? Du sein de l'ocan, la source immortelle, la pche, le trsor, la prise tait si belle. Et le souffle des airs et le rythme des flots bercent l'esprit comme une douce harmonie.
mer, grande amie!' (see A. Wildenstein, Odilon Redon, catalogue raisonn, fleurs paysage, vol. III, Paris, 1996, p. 325).
The Wildenstein Institute has confirmed the authenticity of this work and will include it in the forthecoming supplement to the Catalogue raisonne de l'oeuvre peint et dessin of Odilon Redon.

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