ODILON REDON (1840-1916)
Pivoine, géranium et lilas
signed 'ODILON REDON' (lower left)
oil on canvas
21 3/4 x 18 1/4 in. (55.3 x 46.4 cm.)
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, December 1909).
Gustave Fayet, Béziers (acquired from the above, March 1910).
Jacques Dubourg, Paris.
M. Nathan, probably Switzerland.
Paul Rosenberg & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above, November 1975).
Norton Simon Museum, California (acquired from the above, December 1978); sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, 7 November 1979, lot 545.
Private collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale); sale, Christie's, New York, 19 November 1986, lot 20.
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty at the above sale.
C. Roger-Marx, Les peintres français nouveaux: Odilon Redon, Paris, 1925, vol. 21, p. 63 (illustrated).
A. Wildenstein, Odilon Redon: Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint et dessiné, Fleurs et paysages, Paris, 1996, vol. III, p. 152, no. 1593 (illustrated).
Stockholm, Svensk-Franska Konstgalleriet, 40th Anniversary, November-December 1958, no. 19 (illustrated, p. 25).

Brought to you by

Joshua Glazer
Joshua Glazer Specialist, Head of Private Sales

Lot Essay

Pivoine, géranium et lilas exemplifies Redon’s distinctive approach to representing nature. In the present work, the artist sets the titular flowers against a subtle wash of ethereal silver, beige, and other earthen tones, which beautifully contrasts with the vivid colors of the petals. Redon produced numerous colorful floral paintings in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a marked reversal from the moody, monochromatic noirs of his early period. The paintings are remarkable because they are not simply depictions of natural splendor, but function as explorations of the qualities of color itself, an important conceptual turn that would inspire subsequent generations of artists.
One of the most striking features of the present work is the background, a haze of color that lacks clear definition or context. Redon’s innovative use of color influenced his contemporaries, including the Post-Impressionist group Les Nabis, which included luminaries like Edouard Vuillard and Paul Sérusier, who also incorporated flat fields of color into their works. Later French artists, such as the Fauves, also drew inspiration from Redon’s approach, which prioritized visual sensation over fidelity to the subject matter. In other floral still lifes from this era, Redon employed even more fantastical and lurid colors, presenting his flowers as ideal images rather than naturalistic representations.
Redon’s embrace of color, so evident in Pivoine, géranium et lilas, is likely a result of his Impressionist and Symbolist influences. While he exhibited with both groups, Redon did not claim affiliation with either, instead incorporating various techniques as he developed his own visual language. One of his primary influences was Eugène Delacroix, whose Le panier de fleurs, exhibited at the Salon of 1849, inspired Redon and his contemporaries (such as Gustave Courbet and Edouard Manet) to tackle the subject matter. While Redon drew on Delacroix’s vivid, richly detailed approach to flowers, his own pastels and oil paintings are characterized by a distinct, idiosyncratic style that straddled the boundaries between the real and the imagined.
Redon’s flower paintings were so influential because he treated color as independent from subject, anticipating later developments in modern art. “Redon’s work heralds the growing autonomy of [color and space], using them no longer to describe the object, but as an independent attribute of the image” (M. Hollein, As In a Dream: Odilon Redon, Frankfurt, 2007, p. 8). In works such as Pivoine, géranium et lilas, Redon did not choose colors just because they accurately represented the subject, but because of the sensation they evoked, capturing the attention of the viewer with the contrast between unnaturally vivid color and the exacting details, born from Redon’s lifelong love for the natural world. The work parallels Redon’s other experiments in this period, such as La Cellule d'Or (Wildenstein, no. 439; British Museum, London) and Sita (Wildenstein, no. 165; The Art Institute of Chicago), both of which explored the romantic qualities of glimmering golds and deep blues. The floating, atmospheric backgrounds and emphasis on color over narrative anticipates later artists like Helen Frankenthaler, Yves Klein, and Anish Kapoor.
Ultimately, Pivoine, géranium et lilas illustrates the elements that make Redon’s flowers so distinct: the suspension of the flowers in a field of pure color, the meticulous attention to detail, and the assimilation of Romantic, Symbolist, and Impressionist influences, evident in the work without detracting from Redon’s own unique perspective. Redon’s pastel and oil flowers continue to be highly regarded, and comparable examples reside in the collections of numerous museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

More from The Ann & Gordon Getty Collection: Volume 2 | Old Master, 19th and 20th Century Paintings, Day Sale

View All
View All