In childhood, he was hidden from human eyes, every night nightmares stood near his bed, in his youth he knew only one color - black. He was a madman, he was a warrior, he was a creator and he saved himself from the abyss of dark visions, letting bright colors into his life. Odilon Redon is an artist and thinker, the forerunner of surrealism, who argued that dreams are more real than reality.
Redon was born in 1840 in the province of Bordeaux. He spent the first eleven years of his life at the Peyerbald family estate in France, and those days were darkened by separation from his parents and almost complete loneliness. From early childhood he was tormented by mysterious seizures, and his parents, frightened by gossip, hastened to hide their "failed" child from the eyes of their acquaintances. Those years Redon invariably recalled with pain and until his last days concealed a grudge against his father.
Then Odilon changed several schools, each of which, with its noise and many demands, only aggravated his condition. Attacks of anxiety and sudden fear wore Redon throughout his youth, and for him reality and terrible dreams were intertwined into a single canvas. Over time, in order to get rid of intrusive images, he began to transfer them to paper.
He lived according to the principle “you cannot see the main thing with your eyes” - but in a special, phantasmagoric understanding. Redon believed in the existence of an inner vision, a gaze directed to the recesses of the soul. Black drawings, "blackness", as he called them, made with charcoal, brought out the most secret phobias and nightmares.
Ravens, anthropomorphic spiders, torn out eyes on stalks, painful metamorphoses of the human body and unexpected interpretations of familiar objects made an unprepared viewer shudder. "I endow human life with incredible creatures, forcing them to live according to the laws of plausibility and putting … the logic of the visible at the service of the invisible" - wrote the artist in his diary, who led his entire life.
However, Redon himself did not try to gain fame for a long time and drew on the table. Having failed in 1857 on the first exam to the Paris School of Fine Arts (the father remembered the existence of his son and decided that he should become an architect), he lost faith in himself and the ability to say something to the world.
And then the family came to the rescue - the elder brother took over the patronage of Odilon and introduced him to the circle of French intellectuals. They met Rudolf Breden, the Symbolist engraver who inspired Redon to work with graphics. In 1864, he again stormed the walls of the School of Fine Arts in Paris and became a student of Jean-Léon Jerome, and studied lithography under the famous Symbolist and decadent Henri Fantin-Latour. They considered him not so much a student as a friend, a like-minded person, and introduced him to Baudelaire's poetry. Baudelaire's aesthetic poisons infuriated Redon's soul so much that he completed a cycle of illustrations for the legendary Flowers of Evil. Nothing reflected his inner world more than the dark lines of this poem.
True, new acquaintances did not add courage to him. When one of Redon's works passed a competitive selection for a major Parisian exhibition, he suddenly got scared of criticism and took it the day before the opening. At the age of thirty, this nervous, sophisticated, morbidly suspicious and timid man became … a soldier. He volunteered for the Franco-Prussian war, causing extreme surprise from all relatives and friends. They were even more amazed when he returned home - steadfastly going through all the hardships of the war, with some strange burning eyes and new strength.
The horrors of war were the new theme of his nightmares, but now he knew what to do. He suddenly grieved deeply when his father died, but he felt free. Thanks to the legacy, Redon devoted himself to creativity.
In 1879 he finally released the first album of his "blacks". He did not have much success, but a start was made. After the album "In the world of dreams" followed by graphic dedication to Flaubert, Baudelaire, Goya and Edgar Poe. The latter is associated with the most famous graphic work of Redon - a black raven against the background of an open window.
He exhibited at the last Salon of the Impressionists, although he had nothing to do with them, moreover, the contempt of the Impressionists for him was mutual. At the age of forty, Redon found happiness in family life, but the marriage was overshadowed by the death of his first child. For several years he could not bring himself to draw - past nightmares have faded in comparison with the loss of a long-awaited child from his beloved woman. But the birth of his second son forced him to take up the brush - and his style changed radically. At first, for the sake of earning money, he began to write bouquets - almost realistic, shimmering, as if plucked from the Garden of Eden - and he liked it.
This is how color entered his painting.
He began his first experiments with pastels during his honeymoon to capture that intoxicating happiness, but only after another mental crisis did he say goodbye to his "blacks". The one who painted monstrous eyes and mad spiders gained the ability to paint shining meditative icons, riders in mother-of-pearl forests, subtle shades of dawn.
His later work is close to Buddhist art and philosophy - an unattainable world of absolute peace, a lost paradise of eternal joy.
Peaceful faces, fantastic landscapes, dreamy pink, heavenly ultramarine, images of mythological creatures and good spirits - this is how the renewed Redon appeared to the world in his “color period”.
He suddenly realized - there is a place for happiness in his world. Bright oil painting shed light on the dark soul of the artist. This sudden turnarounds to this day baffles art critics.
The change of mood was felt by both friends and critics. Redon won the respect of Gauguin and members of the Nabis group, received exhibitions throughout Europe and received the Order of the Legion of Honor.
Emile Zola, who repeatedly spoke harshly and disparagingly about Redon, once wrote to him: “Today I admire you more than any other artist: none of them opened to my soul such radiant, distant and painful horizons of the mysterious, which is the only real life. ".
The last entry in his diary reads: "I am content with my life."