Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon was starting his career when ‘impressionism’ was newly established throughout the world of art, however Redon did not conform to this, he believed it was still too determined by the nature of what was seen. Redon enjoyed drawing and painting within the movement known as ‘symbolism’, where things drawn within in his art was symbolic in meaning.


Figure 1 – Odilon Redon – Two Trees, 1875. Charcoal on paper – image 49.5 x 63.5cm

Redon worked majorly in charcoal and etching. He very rarely if ever used colour in his art as he liked to give a dream state feel to his work and it is debated even to this present day that we do not dream in colour but in black and white. It wasn’t until the 1890s that Redon began to experiment with colour and paint which then dominated his pieces for the rest of his career.

This charcoal drawing above – ‘Two Trees’ is a great example of this dream like state he used to convey in his drawings. He uses large amounts of shading to give this work a darker, mysterious yet intriguing feel overall. He demonstrates great technique in the finer areas, such as the shrubs on the ground and on the trees. By using a huge range of tones to his lines his conveys the rough texture of the bark that you can almost feel. Although this work in named two trees my eyes are automatically drawn between the trees and gives me a sense of wonder of what lies beyond what we can see. He is able to succeed in this by his shading and use of textures that draws the eye in and engages the brain to imagine.


Figure 2 – Odilon Redon – Fear, 1866. Etching – sheet, 25.4 x 32.6cm image, 11.2 x 20cm

Although a different medium to the ‘Two trees’, ‘Fear’ is just as striking. he manges to uses harsh lines to convey a very bleak and hostile environment before the rider. His use of the angles, and dark lines he uses to show the choppy sharp shapes of the landscape does make the viewer feel unease and possibly fear of what else lies ahead.


Figure 3 – Odilon Redon – Melancholy, 1876 – charcoals, guoache, pastels & chalk – image 36.8 x 35.7cm

‘Melancholy’ is a mixed media piece, but Redon continues to master both the shading and technique to help give you a sense of great sadness and lack of purpose the woman may be feeling.

I have chosen to look at three of Redon’s work, with each drawing he has used a different medium, he shows great skill and understanding of his tools and materials by being able to get similar effects throughout each piece. His use of lines is crucial in helping convey tone as well as a 3 dimensional perspective of three very different landscapes. Though showing great detail in his technique and understanding, there is something simple to each of his drawings. I feel this is a way for Redon to help convey what he wants to say as well as leaving enough to the imagination for the viewer to be able to relate or connect to his work. When describing his process Redon said:

 “I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted before an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased.”

Redon used his imagination and feeling to complete his works, you can see that each line and shading he puts into place is done with emotion. It is hard not to see the passion he had in every stroke. Redon is a great example to look at whilst going forward with my work. He is able to get the shape of his subject as well as emotion onto the paper, with his cross-hatching ans shading that I wish to include into my process and hopefully show in my further work to come.