ODILON REDON: Prince of Dreams by Douglas W. -- Ed. Druick

ODILON REDON: Prince of Dreams

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Meticulous research by an international team of scholars, complemented by magnificently reproduced illustrations, creates an impressive portrait of the fin-de-siècle French artist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). Although Redon was once ranked with artists like Seurat and Gauguin, he has lately received less attention than his peers -- a situation that the current retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago, which this volume explicates, should help redress. Redon is best remembered today for his visionary monochromatic prints and drawings. Among his most frequently exhibited pictures are such fantastic dream images as an eye set within an ascending balloon and a giant smiling spider poised at a jaunty angle. Many public collections also display colorful pastel drawings of flower bouquets from the latter part of his career. It has proven difficult to explain his work according to the grand narratives of art history. Redon was neither an impressionist nor a modernist; even the label of symbolist threatens to assimilate his works to literature and philosophy rather than grant them the independence that their singularity demands. The authors, led by the Art Institute's Druick, recontextualize Redon by carefully unraveling his relationship to the romantic esthetics, spiritualist theologies, and art-market imperatives of his time, while offering a convincing psychoanalytic account of how his art reflects his unhappy childhood, his difficult apprenticeship, and his struggle to emerge from the shadow of his talented elder brother. Dark clouds and landscapes from his early life mark his noirs, they argue, but dissolve to reveal the no less mysterious, but finally joyous, light and color of his last decades. Many heretofore unknown full-color images brought to light by their investigations give a fuller sense of the development of themes in this late period. A superb art book for aficionados of occult ideas, of the graphic arts, or simply of striking images and effusive colors.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Abrams