Odilon Redon
French painter



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Odilon Redon
French painter
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Birth Date

April 20, 1840

Death Date

July 06, 1916

Works by Odilon Redon

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Odilon Redon is the precursor to Salvador Dali and Marcel Duchamp that we never knew we wanted.

Born in Bordeaux, France to a Creole woman from Louisiana, Redon’s real name was Bertrand Jean Redon, but everyone called him a variation of his mother’s first name which was Odile. He was a weird and sickly child, possibly afflicted with epilepsy. Because of his weak health, he was sent to live with his uncle on the family winery. He was alone a lot and therefore had to entertain himself if he didn’t want to be constantly bored. He claimed that he would watch clouds go by and hide behind curtains in their giant house. Nothing about his life was bad but it was tinted with darkness from the beginning, something that defined his later work. He started school at the age of 11 which gave him a chance to be really, really different from the other kids. He was winning art contests because he wasn’t shoved onto the same conveyor belt of education as every other kid and showed some creativity. His parents recognized this and sent him to work for Stanislas Gorin in 1855. Gorin introduced Redon to artists like Delacroix and Goya. It was as good an introduction to the art world as any.

Redon’s father pushed him to study architecture at L’Ecole des Beaux Arts but after a year of loathing it, he quit. Then he studied with Jean-Léon Gérome, who was much too harsh for Redon’s taste so he quit that too. Nothing was working out until Redon met Rodolphe Bresdin in 1865. This was the man who made Redon fulfill his entire potential. Under his mentorship Redon accessed his trippy, spiritual side that made his art so fugging cool.

In the 1870s Redon worked with absolutely no color whatsoever. It was surreal and awesome, but completely devoid of color. This was not a statement about Redon’s lack of happiness or love. He happily married Camille Falte in 1880, claiming that he was more sure of his love for her than even his vocation as an artist. But the black was ever present. The only indication that the darkness of his work would fit his personal life was when the couple lost their six-month old son and Redon slipped into a deep depression. The charcoal was going on before this so I guess it was a genuine interest; then in 1890, something inside Redon snapped. From that point on he only worked in the most vibrant of colors. Some say it was an enlightenment or religious awakening but this is unconfirmed. Luckily people loved the switch and he grew more and more popular. Redon participated in the super famous Armory Show of 1913 and had a catalogue raisonne of his prints published. All was well until the war started in 1914, and his son went to fight on the front lines. It’s said that Redon died of the dread of losing another son.



  1. “Biography of Odilon Redon” Odilon Redon. Accessed November 8, 2018.
  2. Seiferle, Rebecca. “Odilon Redon” The Art Story, last modified 2018.
  3. Melikian, Souren. “Odilon Redon:Case of an Enigmatic Genius” The New York Times, last modified February 18, 1995.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon (born Bertrand Redon;French: [ʁədɔ̃]; April 20, 1840 – July 6, 1916) was a French symbolist painter, printmaker, draughtsman and pastellist.


Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux, Aquitaine, to a prosperous family. The young Bertrand Redon acquired the nickname "Odilon" from his mother, Odile. Redon started drawing as a child; at the age of ten, he was awarded a drawing prize at school. He began the formal study of drawing at fifteen but, at his father's insistence, he changed to architecture. Failure to pass the entrance exams at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts ended any plans for a career as an architect, although he briefly studied painting there under Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1864. (His younger brother Gaston Redon would become a noted architect.)

Back in his native Bordeaux, he took up sculpting, and Rodolphe Bresdin instructed him in etching and lithography. His artistic career was interrupted in 1870 when he was drafted to serve in the army in the Franco-Prussian War until its end in 1871.

At the end of the war, he moved to Paris and resumed working almost exclusively in charcoal and lithography. He called his visionary works, conceived in shades of black, his noirs. It was not until 1878 that his work gained any recognition with Guardian Spirit of the Waters; he published his first album of lithographs, titled Dans le Rêve, in 1879. Still, Redon remained relatively unknown until the appearance in 1884 of a cult novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans titled À rebours (Against Nature). The story featured a decadent aristocrat who collected Redon's drawings.

In the 1890s pastel and oils became his favored media; he produced no more noirs after 1900. In 1899, he exhibited with the Nabis at Durand-Ruel's.

Redon had a keen interest in Hindu and Buddhist religion and culture. The figure of the Buddha increasingly showed in his work. Influences of Japonism blended into his art, such as the painting The Death of the Buddha around 1899, The Buddha in 1906, Jacob and the Angel in 1905, and Vase with Japanese warrior in 1905, amongst many others.

Baron Robert de Domecy (1867–1946) commissioned the artist in 1899 to create 17 decorative panels for the dining room of the Château de Domecy-sur-le-Vault near Sermizelles in Burgundy. Redon had created large decorative works for private residences in the past, but his compositions for the château de Domecy in 1900–1901 were his most radical compositions to that point and mark the transition from ornamental to abstract painting. The landscape details do not show a specific place or space. Only details of trees, twigs with leaves, and budding flowers in an endless horizon can be seen. The colours used are mostly yellow, grey, brown and light blue. The influence of the Japanese painting style found on folding screens byōbu is discernible in his choice of colours and the rectangular proportions of most of the up to 2.5 metres high panels. Fifteen of them are located today in the Musée d'Orsay, acquisitioned in 1988.

Domecy also commissioned Redon to paint portraits of his wife and their daughter Jeanne, two of which are in the collections of the Musée d'Orsay and the Getty Museum in California. Most of the paintings remained in the Domecy family collection until the 1960s.

In 1903 Redon was awarded the Legion of Honor. His popularity increased when a catalogue of etchings and lithographs was published by André Mellerio in 1913; that same year, he was given the largest single representation at the groundbreaking U.S. International Exhibition of Modern Art (aka Armory Show), in New York City, Chicago and Boston.

Redon died on July 6, 1916. In 1923 Mellerio published Odilon Redon: Peintre Dessinateur et Graveur. An archive of Mellerio's papers is held by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In 2005 the Museum of Modern Art launched an exhibition entitled "Beyond The Visible", a comprehensive overview of Redon's work showcasing more than 100 paintings, drawings, prints and books from The Ian Woodner Family Collection. The exhibition ran from October 30, 2005 to January 23, 2006.

The Grand Palais in Paris, France featured a vast exhibition of Redon's art from March to June 2011

The Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland showed a retrospective from February to May 2014.

The Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands, had an exhibition with an emphasis on the role that literature and music played in Redon's life and work, under the title La littérature et la musique. The exhibition ran from 2 June to 9 September 2018.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Odilon Redon.