Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
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Odilon Redon (1840-1916)
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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Cox Collection: The Story of Impressionism
ODILON REDON (1840-1916)

Grand bouquet de fleurs des champs

ODILON REDON (1840-1916)
Grand bouquet de fleurs des champs
oil on board
26 ½ x 20 ½ in. (67.4 x 52.1 cm.)
Painted circa 1900-1905
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the artist, 13 December 1909).
Gustave Fayet, Béziers (acquired from the above, 1913).
Paul and Simone Bacou, Paris (by descent from the above, circa 1925).
Jean-Pierre Bacou, Paris (by descent from the above, circa 1964).
Wildenstein & Co. Inc., New York (acquired from the above, 1981).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 21 May 1981.
A. Alexandre, "La semaine artistique, Floralies" in Comoedia, 1 November 1913, p. 3 (illustrated).
C. Roger-Marx, Les peintres français nouveaux, no. 21: Odilon Redon, Paris, 1925, p. 55 (illustrated; titled Fleurs des champs).
R. Bacou, Odilon Redon, Geneva, 1956, vol. II, p. 55, no. 80 (illustrated; titled Fleurs des champs).
R. Bacou, Odilon Redon, exh. cat., Orangerie des Tuileries, Paris, 1956, p. 77.
K. Berger, Odilon Redon: Phantasie und Farbe, Cologne, 1964, p. 202, no. 289 (titled Wild Flowers with Butterfly and the Patterned Vase).
A. Wildenstein, Odilon Redon: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint et dessiné, Paris, 1994, vol. III, p. 116, no. 1528 (illustrated; illustrated again in color on the frontispiece).
Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Odilon Redon, March 1926, p. 10, no. 28 (titled Vase vert et fleurs des champs and dated circa 1905).
London, Wildenstein & Co., Ltd., Exhibition of Paintings by Odilon Redon, January 1938, no. 25 (titled Wild Flowers and dated 1890).
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, De David à Cézanne, November 1947-January 1948, p. 53, no. 134 (titled Fleurs des champs).
Paris, Galerie Berri-Argenson, Odilon Redon, May-June 1950, no. 3.
Special notice
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Lot Essay

The extensive series of flower paintings, both in oil and pastel, which began to emerge in Odilon Redon’s work during the late 1890s and early 1900s, marked a distinctive turning point in the artist’s oeuvre. Up to this point in his career, Redon had enjoyed a considerable reputation for his mysterious works on paper, most notably his exquisite, haunting charcoal drawings known as “noirs,” and his enigmatic lithographs. However, as the new century dawned, Redon sought to expand the market for his art, and began to explore a different path in his work—color became his chief focus, and flowers, “those fragile perfumed beings, exquisite prodigies of light,” as the artist described them, were the ideal subject for his new vision (To Myself: Notes on Life, Art and Artists, New York, 1986, p. 114). Painted circa 1900-1905, Grand bouquet de fleurs des champs emerged during this key period of transition, and captures the spirit of experimentation and bold, effusive approach to color that defined Redon’s floral subjects during these years, as he sought to combine the traditions of the still life genre with his own idiosyncratic creative outlook.
The composition focuses on a bouquet of summer wild flowers, in which a variety of blooms, including poppies, asters, daisies and cornflowers, are all gathered together in a heady bundle of explosive color. Executed in an array of intensely vibrant, vivacious tones, the flowers seem to have been arranged in a haphazard, organic manner, their forms almost ready to spill over the edges of the slender vase that houses them, as they jostle for space. Echoing the natural arrangement of such blossoms in a meadow, they embody the essential beauty that led Redon to proclaim “I do not know of anything that has given me more pleasure than such an appreciation of simple flowers in their vase breathing air” (quoted in Odilon Redon, 1840-1916, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 1994, p. 294). According to Alec Wildenstein, the multi-hued vase in which the flowers sit was a unique creation by the talented ceramicist Maria Botkin, a close friend of Redon and active participant within the revival of the decorative arts in France at the turn of the century. Filled with rich, semi-abstract tonal gradations and finished with a gloss glaze, the vase featured in several other examples of the artist’s floral still-lifes from this period, captured from a slightly different viewpoint or angle in each canvas (Wildenstein, nos. 1526-1536). Here, the vase offers an intriguing counterpoint to the flowers, echoing their vibrant colors and fluid, sinuous lines, and yet retaining the characteristics of a distinctly man-made object.
By removing all details and references to the setting in which these flowers exist, Redon conjures a fluid sense of space, allowing the vase and its contents to almost float ethereally against the gently variegated ground, the colors of the blooms all the more startling against the subtle tones of the surrounding space. While this effect lends the composition a somewhat dreamy quality, the detailed and precise modelling of the flowers grounds the scene in reality, revealing Redon’s keen skills of observation and deep understanding of the natural world. Having spent much of his youth fascinated by the eternal rhythms of the Medoc countryside in which he lived, his appreciation of nature was enhanced even further through his friendship with the botanist Armand Clavaud, who opened his eyes to the inherent mysteries and imperceptible processes that underpinned plants, flowers and other living organisms, a theme which would prove essential for Redon’s creative imagination. “My most fertile technique,” the artist explained, “and the one most necessary to my development, I have often said it, was to copy directly from the real while attentively reproducing objects from nature’s most ordinary, most special and most accidental characteristics. After trying to copy minutely a pebble, a blade of grass, a hand, a human profile or any other example of living or inorganic forms, I experience the onset of a mental excitement; at that point I need to create, to give myself over to representations of the imaginary. Thus blended and infused, Nature becomes my source, my yeast, and my leaven” (“Confidences d’Artiste,” in LArt Moderne, 25 August 1894, vol. 14, no. 34, p. 269).
However, it is Redon’s daring, vivid use of color in paintings such as Grand bouquet de fleurs des champs, where the flowers are rendered in a rich array of jewel-like tones that seem to dance before the eye, that the true focus of his creative energies at this time is revealed. As the artist so eloquently explained, “If the art of an artist is the song of his life, a solemn or sad melody, I must have hit a happy note in color” (quoted in exh. cat., op. cit., 1994, p. 288). Among the young painters most influenced by this shift into color in Redon’s work was Henri Matisse, who as early as 1900 had acquired examples of his pastels for both his father and his own personal collection, including La Mort de Bouddha (Wildenstein, no. 2604). Indeed, the sculptor Aristide Maillol reported “Matisse is obsessed with Redon. He buys as much of it as he can,” while Christian Zervos would later describe Matisse’s deep appreciation for Redon’s “pure, expressive color” (quoted in Odilon Redon, exh. cat., Fondation Beyeler, Basel, 2014, p. 16). Redon’s example would prove crucial to Matisse’s own pursuit of a new chromatic intensity and freedom during his Fauve years, with floral still lifes such as Vase de fleurs (1906-1907, The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia) displaying a clear affinity with Redon’s flower paintings.
The first owner of Grand bouquet de fleurs des champs was Gustave Fayet, a wealthy vintner from Béziers and a painter himself, who was a notable collector of avant-garde art at the turn of the century. Focusing on the work of his contemporaries, he purchased paintings by Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edouard Manet, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and in particular, Paul Gauguin, whose posthumous retrospective at the 1906 Salon d’Automne drew heavily from Fayet’s extensive holdings of the artist’s work. Redon had first met Fayet in 1899, and the pair soon became close friends. While initially drawn to Redon’s “noirs” and lithographs, Fayet soon embraced the artist’s return to color, and acquired a number of paintings and pastels for his collection, as well as commissioning Redon to create portraits of his wife and daughters (Wildenstein, nos. 92-95). In 1908, he invited the artist to create a series of murals for the library of his home at the renovated twelfth-century Cistercian Abbey of Fontfroide near Narbonne, a project which would result in the largest and most elaborate compositions of Redon’s entire oeuvre (Wildenstein, nos. 2556/1-3, 2557/1-3, and 2558). Fayet’s enthusiasm for Redon’s work continued unabated for the rest of his life—by the time of his death in 1925, his collection contained around a hundred examples of the artist’s paintings, drawings and pastels. Grand bouquet de fleurs des champs remained with Fayet’s descendants until the 1980s, at which point it was purchased by the late owner.

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