The Temptation of Saint Redon
Biography, Ideology, and Style in the Noirs of Odilon Redon
Indeed, local tales and legends of witches, ghosts, one-eyed monsters, evil eyes, and wood fairies figure prominently in Redon's graphic works, which he called his noirs, or "blacks." After formal training at Bordeaux and Paris in the 1850s and 1860s, Redon began to chart his independent artistic course. Eisenman shows how, rejecting both naturalism and classicism, Redon, a prototypical Symbolist, found in grotesque and epic genres the expression of organic communities and precapitalist societies. He places Redon's desire for this imagined world of superstitious simplicity a desire manifest in his entire mature artistic practice in the context of contemporary avant-garde movements.
Redon's great noirs of the 1870s and 1880s, dreamlike configurations of seemingly irreconcilable elements from portraits, still lifes, and landscapes, show an increasingly subtle control of connotation and a complex indebtedness to caricature, allegory, and puns. Many of the noirs also visually interpret works by like-minded authors, including Baudelaire, Flaubert, Poe, and Mallarmé, one of Redon's close friends. Eisenman's analysis of the noirs underscores Redon's interest in creating an imaginative, even fantastic art, that could act directly on the human spirit. In addition to deepening our understanding of Redon and his art, The Temptation of Saint Redon exposes a link between place, politics, personal history, and the artistic imagination.
1. Youth, Education, and Early Art
2. Popular Culture and the Noirs
3. Flaubert, Marllarmé, and the Crucible of Symbolism
4. Epilogue in Color