More about The Cyclops
The Cyclops by Odilon Redon looks lovesick.
The giant one-eyed creature stares into your soul as if he’s screaming, “Please, please love me dear viewer!” Turns out, symbolist Odilon Redon successfully captured a look of longing out of this monster.
According to Greek Mythology, the Cyclops Polyphemus fell madly in love with Galateia, one of the fifty Nereids, or goddesses of the sea. From behind his boulder, Polyphemus attempts to woo Galateia with soft melodies and milk and cheese. Dude knows the way to a woman’s heart. But poor Polyphemus didn’t stand a chance because the nymphs spurned his advances and plucked the handsome young Sicilian man named Akis to swoop in and take Galateia for himself. Polyphemus, in a fit of rage, crushes Akis with a boulder. Don’t mess with monsters, man.
Odilon Redon was determine to paint the imaginary in all of his paintings, and The Cyclops is no exception. Redon captures our heartbroken monster in the moment he sees Galateia for the first time. But his giant eye stares blaringly into the viewer’s soul. By exaggerating the size of the cyclops' eye, Redon implies that the eye, full of wonder, is a reflection of a human soul.
Symbolism, the precursor to it’s brother, Surrealism, allowed artists like Redon to rebel against Naturalism which was all the rage in the late 1800s. Symbolist painters believed art should reflect an emotion and not mimic the natural world. Symbolists used Greek Mythology and mainly woman subjects (surprise!) to recall the most important themes in their art: love, fear, death, sexy time, and unreciprocated affection.
Love? Check. Death? You betcha. Sexual awakening? Yep. Unreciprocated affection with a dash of stalker-ish tendencies? That’s right. Is the Cyclops' eye staring straight into your soul making you feel things you normally hide? Good. Congratulations, you have been successfully had by a symbolist painting. Welcome to the club, my friend.
- “Le Cyclope, c. 1914.” Kroller Mueller. Accessed November, 2018. https://krollermuller.nl/en/odilon-redon-the-cyclops-1.
- Myers, Nicole. “Symbolism.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art website. August, 2007. Accessed November, 2018. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/symb/hd_symb.htm.
- The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Galatea.” Encyclopedia Britannica. April, 2017. Accessed November, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Galatea-Greek-mythology.
- The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Polyphemus.” Encyclopedia Britannica. May, 2018. Accessed November, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Polyphemus-Greek-mythology
- The Annotated Mona Lisa section on Symbolism from “The Nineteenth Century: Birth of the ‘Isms’” p.124-125
Here is what Wikipedia says about The Cyclops (Redon)
The Cyclops (Le Cyclope in French) is a painting by Odilon Redon that depicts the myth of the love of Polyphemus for the naiad Galatea. It was painted in oils on board, then mounted on wood, and is now in the Kröller-Müller Museum in the Netherlands. The painting has been variously dated between 1898 and 1914.
Check out the full Wikipedia article about The Cyclops (Redon)