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

Vase de fleurs

ODILON REDON (1840-1916)
Vase de fleurs
signed 'ODILON REDON' (lower left)
pastel on paper laid down on card
27 3⁄4 x 19 1⁄4 in. (70.4 x 48.7 cm.)
Galerie Georges Petit, Paris.
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York (acquired from the above, February 1930).
Roland Balay, Paris (acquired from the above, December 1937).
Mrs Ralph Harman Booth, Grosse Pointe (acquired from the above by the late owner, 1937).
By descent from the above to the late owner.
K.G. Sterne, "Odilon Redon Viewed Again," Parnassus, vol. III, no. III, March 1931, p. 9 (illustrated).
R. Fry, "Modern French Art at The Lefevre Gallery," The Burlington Magazine, vol. LXIII, no. 364, July 1933, p. 29 (illustrated, pl. 2B; dated circa 1905).
Cambridge, Fogg Art Museum, Still life, April 1931, no. 12.
London, The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), French Paintings of the Nineteenth Century: Ingres to Cezanne, June-July 1933, no. 29 (with incorrect cataloguing).

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Lot Essay

“My flowers [exist] at the confluence of two riverbanks: that of representation and that of memory.”
-Odilon Redon (quoted in J. Hauptman, Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2005, p. 49)
In the 1890s, Redon’s art underwent a dramatic transformation—he reintroduced color into his works on paper. Before this transition, Redon preferred melancholy greys and harsh blacks, as he depicted bizarre, uncanny, and always monochromatic worlds in his charcoals and lithographs. While Redon shifted his attention to the vibrant colors of the natural world, he always retained his taste for the fantastical.
Redon was a lifelong individualist—though he exhibited with the Impressionists and Symbolists, he never claimed affiliation to any group, instead assimilating various influences as he developed his own visual language. One of his primary influences was Eugène Delacroix, whose Basket of Flowers paintings, exhibited at the Salon of 1849, would inspire Redon and his contemporaries (such as Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet) to create their own flower paintings. 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.
“My most fertile technique,” Redon had 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” (quoted in “Confidences d’Artiste,” LArt Moderne, 25 August 1894, vol. 14, no. 34, p. 269). The present lot is a striking example of this approach, one that incorporates both careful observation and invented elements. Redon omits any sense of location or context, instead setting his vase against a diffuse, atmospheric background of an orange-brown haze dissipating into violet. Though the forms of the flowers are carefully rendered, the leaves are an unnaturally bright green, accompanied by bold, rich reds and sunny, saturated yellows, an impossibly colorful arrangement that prioritizes sensation over realism. Redon’s flower paintings often convey his interest in the unreal both subtly and blatantly: he shows flowers from different seasons blooming at the same time, spilling out wildly from the vase, or even butterflies escaping from the leaves. In one memorable example from this period, Redon portrays the flowers as a bulbous, anarchic organism as a suspended, ghostly head peers onto the scene. The present lot conveys a similar sense of otherworldliness in its abstract setting and luminous colors.
Ultimately, Vase de fleurs 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.

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