By 1900, Odilon Redon had entirely abandoned the confines of his monochromatic Noirs, the macabre and enigmatic charcoals and graphic albums which had dominated the majority of his career. For Redon, the turn of century marked a very public embracing of colour and all of its suggestive possibilities as he turned towards a more lyrical subject matter. Redon banished the monsters, spiders, serpents and skeletons of his Noirs and reveled in the rendering of flowers, chariots and mystical beings; as Klaus Berger observed, 'The demons have retired' (in Odilon Redon, New York, 1965, p. 88). This move may have been bolstered by the fact that Redon, who had spent most of his life working in isolation, far outside of any artistic group or movement, had finally found an allegiance to a group of artists to whom he could relate. For the young Nabis, Redon was a revered father figure of an expressive art that envisioned dream without resorting to allegory. In turn, Redon enjoyed the support and admiration of this new generation of colourists. As he wrote to Andreas Bonger, 'The new band of young [artists] who are my friends and who surround me so affectionately is also quite successful' (Odilon Redon, quoted in G. Groom, 'The Late Work' in D. Druik (ed.), Odilon Redon, Chicago, 1994 p. 306).
Flowers were the perfect subject matter for Redon to experiment with colour and all of its evocative potential. In creating his floral compositions, Redon saw the artistic process as stemming from a fusion of the observation of reality and the unconscious dream. As he stated, painting must be 'derived from reality, or in other words nature, which is a pure means for expressing our feelings and communicating them to others, out of which our ambition to create remains in a dream state, a state of abstraction' (Redon, quoted in To Myself: Notes on Life, Art and Artists, New York, 1986, p.153). Fleurs demonstrates this union perfectly. While the flowers and vase are carefully observed and delicately rendered, the work is imbued with a mystical and dream-like presence. The ground is a hazy, nebulous amalgamation of reds and greens which merge and drift in to one another while the flowers appear to emanate an orange mist. The edge of the table on which the vase sits is indistinctive and blurred while its green surface is dappled with an ethereal light from an indistinguishable source. By eliminating the table edge and the traces of an everyday context, Redon has placed his still-life in a space far removed from reality, it is part abstracted and part imaginary.
Redon's Fleurs is more than an accurately represented and carefully composed still-life, it is instilled with a sense of the spiritual. As Redon himself put it, his flowers were 'at the confluence of two rivers, that of representation and that of memory. This is the soil of art itself, the good earth of the real, harrowed and tilled by the spirit' (Redon, quoted in Gloria Groom, 'The Late Work' in D. Druik (ed.), Odilon Redon, Chicago, 1994 p. 442).