The end of the nineteenth century kicked up a lot of dust in the art world as artists struggled with new ways to share the world of their peculiar and intimate senses. Redon was among the group of artists who seemed to have arisen from practically nowhere. He first gained wide attention as an aside in a successful novel wherein the main character was a collector of his drawings. Of such strange side tracks mighty trails are blazed.
Early on Redon worked primarily in charcoal and shades of gray, but it is his work in pastels and oils that are my favorite. He had many images to which he continually returned: boats and sailors, winged horses, angels, the heads of women, studies of the Buddha. They are all of them striking in that none of them seem to consciously strive for any particular style or harmony. Redon seems to delight in simply following his tools wherever they take him.
For this reason, I think of him as a strange philosophical painter who seems to live fixed in each separate moment of his work without reference to what has gone before or where he might be going next. It inspires a freshness and a spirit of surprise, even when looking at something as ordinary as a boat in the moonlight.
He died in 1916, well short of the post-modern age, but there is little doubt that were he to appear today for the first time with these exact works he would find himself welcomed and marveled over. You can’t ask for much more than that.