The Brush and the Pen
Odilon Redon and Literature
French symbolist artist Odilon Redon (1840–1916) seemed to thrive at the intersection of literature and art. Known as “the painter-writer,” he drew on the works of Poe, Baudelaire, Flaubert, and Mallarmé for his subject matter. And yet he concluded that visual art has nothing to do with literature. Examining this apparent contradiction, The Brush and the Pen transforms the way we understand Redon’s career and brings to life the interaction between writers and artists in fin-de-siècle Paris.
“Gamboni combines the skills of the philologist and sociologist, the iconographer and literary historian, the connoisseur and semiotician. His La plume et le pinceau was a fresh and formidable intervention when it first appeared in 1989, but is even more so now, translated and extensively revised. He has taken account of an intervening generation of archival discovery and critical scholarship to expose an artist who sought to construct for himself a myth of autochthony. In exposing that myth, Gamboni has revealed the historical and cultural origins of one of the least understood symbolists, while bringing to light the close but often conflictual relationship between artistic and literary modernism.”
“Interest in the work of Odilon Redon has never been stronger than at the present time. Gamboni’s splendid study is the fruit of many years’ consideration of Redon’s diversified and distinctive career, which it situates in the broader context of word and image studies. Indeed, the book can be regarded as a model of how to set the theoretical issues involved in this field within a highly detailed and convincing historical framework.”
“The translation of Gamboni’s groundbreaking study of Redon is long overdue. When the French version appeared in 1989 it transformed our understanding of Redon, notably the crucial problematic of word-image relations in his work and the place of this in the cultural field of the late nineteenth century. Now revised and updated in the light of recent scholarship, The Brush and the Pen maintains its central place in contemporary debates about fin-de-siècle art, literature, criticism, and institutions. This is a major work of scholarship on one of our most interesting and complex artist-writers, carried out with historical, theoretical, and critical acumen and interpretive insight.”