Odilon Redon
(Bordeaux, 1840-1916, Paris)
The Calvary, ca. 1895
Pastel on cardboard, 69 x 53 cm
Signed lower right: Odilon Redon
Wildenstein 511
Around the middle of the 1890s, a religious mysticism takes the place of the dark visions of the draughtsman Redon. Charcoal gives way to the bright pastel, Christ figures are now the major theme: "The Crown of Thorns", "The Heart of Jesus" and "Christ Silent". This is the time when his friends Emile Bernard, Paul Sérusier and Maurice Denis focussed increasingly on religious themes.. Redon, who joined the Nabis, is not free of these influences, but he does not draw the same conclusions for himself.
In "The Calvary" of the Bührle Collection, we meet this new Redon, tense with religious hopes, tense also in the sense that he is subject to restrictive compulsions: the overemphasized "sacral" central axis of the Cross with the small crucified figure on the upper margin of the picture and the rigid, lamenting Mary in her red robe stem more from artistic intention than from magical vision. Redon will soon shake off the fetters of this mannered religiousness, for Buddha and Apollo cannot be expelled from his pantheon.