Artist Research: Odilon Redon

Born – 1840, Died – 1916. Symbolist painter and printmaker. Born in France.

All of his work is full of mysteries. His style creates a real frightening and disturbing scene. His style has captivated me


Fig 1. The Crying Spider (1881)


His small areas of highlights make you look deeper and closer into the drawing. I.e. the tear on the spiders face is so small you can hardly see it but look closer and it actually stands out as it is the lightest part of the face. The fact that it is a human face adds to this mysterious and haunting feeling the the image creates. The idea of the tear presents a sad meaning to this drawing. The eyes are completely black and the only thing giving us an indication of what emotion is being portrayed is the tear. The body is pure black and given a fury type texture as the edge of the black is frayed and not a strong neat line. The background tone emphasises a frightening and haunting effect for the viewer as it is light and soft. The background tone looks as it it has been executed using charcoal on its side as it creates a smooth effect on the paper. The charcoal has been using solidly for the spiders body. If we focus on the atmosphere the tone creates I would say daunting and saddening for the viewer. The spider is also personified by using the human face so the viewer almost relates to the image even more


Fig 2. Frontispiece for Les Flambeaux Noirs by Emile Verhaeren (1890)


All emotion, all sense of life is taken out of these images, or more likely they were never put in. Looking simply as the work I feel that I am squinting to work out what I can see and what is put into the image. There is strong mark making that is used to create a striking dark shadow in the middle and edge of the drawing, that dominates the piece. You can make out that there are some figures in the left hand corner of the drawing but it is too dark to see. I think this is what the artist wants. Redon doesn’t want you to know what these figures are, he leaves us guessing and questioning the image which adds to the frightening atmosphere that is created in this drawing. The use of mark making with the dark shadow in the middle creates a sense of movement as the cross hating becomes less dense and the shadow fuses into light. Again this itself creates mystery as the shadow itself blends into the rest of the picture creating a puzzling thought process for the viewer

Fig 3. Cactus Man (1881)


I have started to notice that on the faces of his pictures there are varied tones to make the impression of facial features. Again in this drawing Redon has used darker tones for the eyes which really creates a sense of horror. He has used nark making well to create the bar with varied shades of tone with darker tones in the middle to emphasise the effect of the cactus spikes. The cactus spikes are all over this persons head and neck and are executed using dark but feathery lines. The marks however do not seem strong or harmful as cactus’s are. However some cacti have very small and almost invisible spikes, and I think that these were the thoughts of Redon when he created this image. I think this image is probably more sensitive than what is first seen. His images are dark but I think may be misinterpreted at times.

Figure 1. Redon, O. (1881) The Crying Spider [charcoal drawing] At: (Accessed on 27 March 2016)

Figure 2. Redon, O. (1890) Frontispiece for Les Flambeaux Noirs by Emile Verhaeren [lithograph] At: (Accessed on 27 March 2016)

Figure 3. Redon, O. (1881) Cactus Man [charcoal drawing] At: (Accessed on 27 March)

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