Odilon Redon
(Bordeaux, 1840-1916, Paris)
The Fall of Phaeton, ca. 1910
Oil on paper, 40 x 48 cm
Signed lower left: Odilon Redon
Wildenstein 875
Odilon Redon, born in Bordeaux in 1840, is a contemporary of the Impressionists and yet he has little in common with them, even though, along with Seurat and Signac, in 1886 he participated in the last lmpressionist exhibition. He has greater affinities to Puvis de Chavannes, whose roots are in the Romanticism of Delacroix and whose visionary transcendence of Impressionism was finally recognized by the likes of Emile Bernard, Paul Gauguin and the Symbolists. At the core of his heart, Redon is a solitary, bound closely to the paternal farmstead of Peyrelebade in the Médoc with its rank garden and its melancholy heaths. Here in this open desolate landscape, to which he constantly returns even from Paris, free play is given to his imagination; he peoples it with his visions.
The ever changing shapes of the clouds from the nearby Atlantic and the play of light and shadow are inexhaustible sources of his fantasy, und from this natural spectacle it is only a step to the solar car of Apollo, one of Redon's favourite themes, of which Klaus Berger alone presents twelve versions, or to the overweening Phaeton, the son of Helios, who loses control over the borrowed car and falls struck by the bolt of Zeus, whereby the earth is rescued from the searing power of the sun. Even in the oil painting Redon does not deny the early graphic artist in him, when he works on paper with a fine black brush and pen, the undulating and crosshatching being embedded in the menacing yellow, orange and red of the blazing sunlight.