I’ve become fascinated by the paintings of Redon (1840-1916), a French artist and Symbolist working mostly in charcoal, pastel, and oil. I included one of his paintings in my last post called “La Barque.” I even went so far as to paint a study of it in watercolor as a way to loosen up my own work and let imagination and feeling help free me from an over-reliance on realism.
Many of his paintings feature boats, the sea, and underwater images, which no doubt is why I first gravitated to his work. But I think his musical compositions, his richly saturated colors, and his turn toward the poetic–the mystical and mythical–also drew me. Even perhaps his interest in Eastern philosophy, in Buddha and Hinduism, the indeterminate and invisible. In all these ways he is an artist that speaks to my heart.
Many of his paintings are dream-like. They evoke reality rather than depict it. On his painting entitled “Underwater Vision,” he wrote: “You will feel the poetry of the sands, the charms of the air of the imperceptible line. While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality… true art lies in a reality that is felt.”
His earlier work, mostly in charcoal and lithograph, was dark and sometimes seemed demonic (a spider with a human head, for instance.) But later they became full of light. One art historian says that Redon began to want his works to portray “the triumph of light over darkness.”
Redon wrote: “My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.”
Here are a few of his works that inspire me and show a range of his subjects.