Previously to this small research, I have never heard or seen the work of Odilon Redon, except for one painting: The Golden Cell (It is the cover of the book “What is Art?” by Leo Tolstoy, Penguin Classics editions and I’m about to start reading). I have to admit that I am fascinated by the simplicity of his drawings and paintings. Yet the use of tone creates so much atmosphere that it makes his art feel very “complete”.
For instance, the example in our material is “Two Tress” (c.1875 – charcoal on paper) and simplicity of the scene, two tree trunks, may come as no surprise. But the intensity of the tone and background paper turns the scene into a story. The darkest tone in the background makes the viewer reconsider the shape and details of the trunks, as it makes them stand out. Also, the foreground to background give a sense of space and dynamics. I imagine a gloomy day in the forest or backyard.
Of what I was able to see in the artist’s work is that most of it has certain atmosphere as a result of the use of tone, even in his paintings of lighter colors. In his drawings I can see a good use of the value system as well as his knowledge in the use of charcoal.
According to the website Musée d’Orsay, the artist once said: “This everyday substance, which has no beauty of its own, aided my researches into chiaroscuro and the invisible. It is a neglected material, scorned by artists. I must say, however, that charcoal does not allow kindness; it is sober, and only with real emotion can you draw results from it.” In his drawings you can feel this connection of the material and the dynamics the artist gave to each image resulting in a very emotionally toned drawing.
I also came across a video from a recent exhibition in honor of the artist called “La nature silencieuse. Paysages d’Odilon Redon.” I don’t speak French, but it was beautiful to see all the images from this collection. And again, there is so much atmosphere in each painting and drawing, it doesn’t matter how simple they may appear, I feel there is a story behind.
I hope you enjoy the video and the images. I found a lot of his work through the website “The Complete Works” and also found a past event at the MOMA of drawings and lithographs from the artist. There are a couple of documents free to download through MOMA – Odilon Redon: Drawings and Lithographs.
I’m really glad I came to know about this artist, specially in this stage of my studies. I think it can help me in my study of charcoal as well as in interpreting tone and atmosphere in drawing.