ODILON REDON (1840-1916)
ODILON REDON (1840-1916)
ODILON REDON (1840-1916)
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ODILON REDON (1840-1916)

Le pêcheur aliéné

ODILON REDON (1840-1916)
Le pêcheur aliéné
signed 'ODILON REDON' (lower left)
oil on canvas
21 1/4 x 25 3/4 in. (54 x 65.4 cm.)
Galerie Druet, Paris (circa 1918).
Millicent Rogers, New York.
Peter Salm, New York (by descent from the above, 1953).
By descent from the above to the present owner.
A. Wildenstein, Odilon Redon: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint et dessiné, Fleurs et paysages, Paris, 1996, vol. III, p. 339, no. 1932 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

“L'oeuvre pure implique la disparition élocutoire du poëte, qui cède l'initiative aux mots.”
“The work of pure poetry implies the elocutionary disappearance of the poet, who yields the initiative to words.”
- Stéphane Mallarmé
The present work, titled Le pêcheur aliéné, depicts one figure and a small fishing boat against an indefinite maritime background. Redon often depicted Maritime scenes and scenes of phantomlike ships are especially important to his oeuvre. In total, he produced sixteen oil paintings of what Alec Wildenstein categorizes as La barque mystique, the mystical boat. This name refers to scenes of boats with passengers, often at nighttime, rendered in a mysterious, dream-like style.
The title and subject of the painting evoke isolation, but the scene also employs isolation as a formal device through its use of spatial ambiguity. Redon links the figure and the boat stylistically by rendering them in a similar technique—their shapes are both outlined in distinct brown and purple lines and draped in warm golden tones. Because the boat and the lone figure have more detail and more densely concentrated lines than the intentionally nondescript background, they stand out as isolated against the space they stand in. Brushy layers of mottled yellow and beige suggest a ground, perhaps evoking sand. The misty blue and pink washes at the top of the painting gesture at sky and horizon. Aside from the boat and figure, there are no other landmarks that might elaborate on the space of the picture, or that give it a specific sense of place or time.
Discussing Redon’s use of spatial ambiguity, Klaus Berger writes, “Here is the beginning of ‘Symbolist’ art, if Symbolism does not mean, or does not merely mean the use of fantastic themes but the unfolding of the imagination in such a way that the content acquires its equivalent, its correspondence in artistic form” (K. Berger, Redon, 1976, p. 42). Here Berger asserts that by replacing conventional illusionistic perspective with a more imaginative treatment of space, Redon finds a suitably new format to match the new ideas the symbolist painters sought to express. This frees painting from the concerns of mimetic representation, allowing Redon to focus on the paint surface, and to emphasize the evocative but ultimately opaque image of a lost traveler.
It is unclear where the fisherman is in the world or where he is going. Instead, we must focus on the painting itself. We are compelled to compare the rough, dry texture of the ground to the watery texture of the color in the sky. It also seems more relevant to observe features of composition, like how the bright horizontal swipe of gold across the boat is countered by a dense cloud of deep blue above it, or the way the delicate threads of rigging draw a diagonal line from the figure’s head to the top of the mast, again drawing a connection between the figure’s body, and the ship, the vessel he uses to navigate the world. In this way, the vignette functions like an act of poetic expression. Redon uses the medium of painting to create a delicate scene outside of space and time, that can only exist in the context of painting.
This work used to belong to the socialite Millicent Rogers and has been in the same family for over 70 years.

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