After 1900, when Redon was a mature artist in his sixties, he returned to the subject of floral still-lifes, a subject that he had first explored in the 1860s. To these works, such as Vase de fleurs avec branches de pommiers en fleurs, he brought his fully developed skills as a colorist, abandoning his “noirs” at this time. Although influenced by the still-lifes of his friend and fellow artist Henri Fantin-Latour, Redon found the latter's approach, which was essentially naturalistic, to be “dead.” While still utilizing nature as a referent, Redon approached still-lifes through the filter of memory and imagination. “I have often, as an exercise and as sustenance, painted before an object down to the smallest accidents of its...appearance; but [that] left me sad and dissatisfied. The next day [when] I let the other source, that of imagination, run through the recollection of the forms, I was reassured and appeased,” the artist explained (quoted in G. Groom, “The Late Work," Odilon Redon, Prince of Dreams, exh. cat., The Art Institute, Chicago, 1994, exhibition catalogue, p. 320).
Responding to the decorative theories of the young Nabi artists, who looked up to him as a forerunner and godfather to their movement, and to the widespread experimentation in color theory initiated by the Neo-Impressionists, Redon began to approach his art in terms of the purity of its means. Color became his chief focus; subject matter now interested him mainly for the formal exploration it afforded him. For this purpose, floral subjects were ideal. In the present lot, he assembled a variety of flowers, including poppies and blossoms, in a red earthenware pot. Redon was deeply influenced by his friendship with botanist Armand Clavaud, who initiated him into science and literature, introducing him to Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, as well as pantheism and Oriental philosophy. The vase and flowers float in a vague, flattened space; they are depicted in a highly decorative and fantastical manner and exhibit the influence of Asian art on Redon’s oeuvre around this time, showing the influence of Asian art. They are more than purely decorative, however, and serve to induce a heady, fragrant atmosphere which is inseparable from the qualities of reverie and fantasy that are the essence of Redon's art. The critic A. Flament, admiring the works of Odilon Redon at the Salon d'Automne in 1905, wrote: “M. Odilon Redon is a painter of flowers as they are seen in dreams. They do not flourish under the rays of the sun. Their middays are moonlight. They come from our nightmares... from oriental legends” (quoted in M.-A. Stevens, “Redon's artistic and critical position,” Odilon Redon, 1840-1916, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 1994, pp. 296-297).