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


ODILON REDON (1840-1916)
signed 'ODILON REDON' (lower left)
oil on canvas
25 ¾ x 21 ½ in. (65.4 x 54.5 cm.)
Jos Hessel, Paris (by 1920).
Jean Ziégler, Geneva and Paris (by 1926).
Colette Eva Sylva, Paris (acquired from the family of the above, circa 1985).
Private collection, Paris.
Marc Rosen Fine Art Ltd., New York.
Acquired from the above by the present owners, October 1999.
A. Wildenstein, Odilon Redon: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint et dessiné, Mythes et légendes, Paris, 1994, vol. II, p. 119, no. 986 (illustrated).
Paris, Galerie Barbazanges, Exposition rétrospective d'oeuvres d'Odilon Redon, May-June 1920, no. 51.
Paris, Musée des arts décoratifs, Odilon Redon: Exposition rétrospective de son oeuvre, March 1926, p. 14, no. 93 (dated circa 1910).

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Lot Essay

The fables that Odilon Redon selected from classical mythology are those which may be interpreted as being symbolic of the artist in pursuit of beauty and truth. Among the figures he featured in his art were Apollo, Phaethon, and Orpheus. The mythical figure, however, which the artist found most emblematic of his vision of art and nature was neither human nor a god, but a fabulous beast, the winged horse Pegasus. In Greek mythology Pegasus was associated with the arts. He was born from sea-foam and the blood of the slaughtered Medusa. Bellerophon, a great equestrian, tamed and rode Pegasus using a golden bridle given to him by Athena, goddess of wisdom. Together they killed the fire-breathing serpent Chimaera. Bellerophon then attempted to ride Pegasus to heaven but was thrown when Zeus sent a gadfly who bit Pegasus, yet another story of human arrogance come to naught. Pegasus, untainted by such human frailties, was alone allowed to rise to the heavens and was made a constellation by the gods.
Redon depicted Pegasus in paintings, drawings, and lithographs from the early 1880s until the end of his career. As noted by Agnès Lacau St. Guily, “Pegasus possesses what no human being by Redon's hand possesses: anatomical integrity rendered with skill close to perfection, perhaps because horses were studied with more passion, or confidence, than men. Few alterations, no awkwardness weigh down these animals, some of the rare beings gifted with life and movement in an immobile and impenetrable work” (A. Wildenstein, op. cit., 1994, p. 111).
Some examples of Redon’s depiction of the myth, such as Pégase et Bellérophon circa 1888 (Wildenstein, no. 967; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), show the winged horse and its rider in a somber, dramatic light, with heavy charcoal shadows. The animal looms over its rider, imposing and menacing, a far cry from beaming white stallion often associated with the myth. Others, such as the present Pégase, show the creature in all its splendor in glistening warm tones, a beacon of light rearing majestically over a hill covered in bright flowers with Bellerophon faintly seen standing near him.
The artist’s dreamlike body of art was considered the precursor to Surrealism—the figure of the horse, and often Pegasus, is one that was frequently used by surrealist artists such as Salvador Dalí and Giorgio de Chirico. Henri Matisse admired “the purity and ardor of the tonalities of his palette.” Even Marcel Duchamp, the early modernist who most thoroughly fostered the mind-set that has facilitated the art of our own era, paid tribute to "the prince of mysterious dreams.” “If I were to say what my own point of departure has been,” he declared, “I should say it was the art of Odilon Redon” (quoted in J. Rewald, Studies in Post-Impressionism, New York, 1986, p. 240).
Pégase was exhibited as early as 1920 in a Parisian retrospective on the artist's oeuvre, and has remained in the same private collection for over two decades.

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