Odilon Redon was born on 22 April 1840, in Bordeaux. From a young age, he displayed a talent for drawing and began to take lessons in 1855, studying under Stanislas Gorin. In 1860, Redon joined the philanthropic Société de Sainte Cécile and exhibited at the Société des Amis des Arts de Bordeaux for the first time. Although he continued to paint and draw, Redon intended to become an architect – according to his father’s wishes – but failed the entrance exam for architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, in 1862. Two years later, he met Camille Corot and considered studying under him before choosing to continue his studies in the studio of Jean-Léon Gérôme.
Redon returned to Bordeaux in 1865, where he continued to exhibit at the Société des Amis des Arts. Rodolphe Bresdin, an eccentric graphic artist Redon had met the previous year, taught him etching and lithography techniques in Bordeaux; Redon would produce a large body of graphic work over his lifetime. Meanwhile, Redon began to articulate his views on art, emphasising the important of imagination, poetic vision, morality, and the distinction been seen and sensed reality, in a series of reviews in La Gironde (1868). From 1870 to 1871, Redon is conscripted into the French army for the Franco-Prussian War, moving back to Paris once it finished. Around this time, he began work on a series of charcoal drawings, his fusains, which depicted pseudo-religious, fantastical and macabre subjects. In 1878, one of his charcoal drawings, Faun Leading an Angel, was exhibited at the Paris Salon.
In 1880, Redon married Camille Falte and executed his first pastels during their honeymoon. The following year, he had his first solo exhibition at Georges Charpentier’s La Vie Moderne, exhibiting twenty-two charcoal drawings – the so-called noirs. In 1884, Redon co-founded the Société des Artistes Indépendants. Over the course of the 1880s, he frequented Stéphane Mallarmé’s weekly Symbolist meetings, produced numerous series of prints and continued to exhibit in group shows, including with Les XX in Brussels (1886, 1890) and in the final Impressionist exhibition (1886). Around 1890, he began to introduce more colour into his compositions, eventually committing entirely to coloured works from 1902. His subjects, although still fantastical, became increasingly dream-like with figures or heads lost in reverie and floral motifs particularly common. Redon had numerous solo exhibitions from 1900 onwards, including at Galerie Vollard, Paris (1901), Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris (1900, 1903, 1906) and Galerie Druet, Paris (1908). He also exhibited at the Berlin Secession (1902), Vienna Secession (1903), the Salon d’Automne (1904, 1905, 1906, 1907) and the Armory Show, New York (1913), which sealed his reputation in the US. Redon died on 6 July 1916, in Paris.
Redon’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Neue Pinakothek, Munich; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Louvre, Paris; the National Gallery, London.
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