Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Art Of Odilon Redon

Self Portrait, by Odilon Redon

"My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined."
 ~Odilon Redon

Greetings, pond-dwellers. This is hedgewitch. We toads are all pitching in to support National Poetry Month, and the efforts so many of us are making to write a poem a day in April. Today it's my turn to offer some inspiration. I have decided on a simple ekphrasis challenge (scroll to bottom for detailed explanation) based on the work of French symbolist painter and illustrator, Odilon Redon.

The Flight Into Egypt, by Odilon Redon

"Odilon Redon (born Bertrand-Jean Redon; French: ( April 20, 1840 – July 6, 1916) was a French symbolist painter, printmaker, draughtsman and pastellist... [He] acquired the nickname "Odilon" from his mother, Odile. Redon started drawing as a child... His failure to pass the entrance exams at Paris’ École des Beaux-Arts ended..plans for a career as an architect, although he briefly studied painting there.[Later,]..back in his native Bordeaux, he took up sculpture..etching and lithography.

At the end of [his service in the Franco-Prussian 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 [and].. he published his first album of 1879....In the 1890s pastel and oils became his favored media... " You can read the rest of his full biography here on wikipedia

Caliban On A Branch, a 'noir' by Odilon Redon

I have often chosen works by Redon to illustrate my own poems as there is an affinity I feel for his art which I don't find in many artists. Perhaps that's because Redon was a Symbolist, (though his later paintings also show a strong Post-Impressionist quality) and we all know by now how I am all about the symbols.

Head On A Stem, 'noir' by Odilon Redon

Symbolism was  a  European movement  around the turn of the Twentieth Century in painting and poetry, which embodied many aspects of the Romantic school, but with a more fantastic and often a more morbid and inward turning eye, or as wikipedia puts it:

"Symbolism was largely a reaction against naturalism and realism, anti-idealistic styles which were attempts to represent reality in its gritty particularity, and to elevate the humble and the ordinary over the ideal. Symbolism was a reaction in favour of spirituality, the imagination, and dreams."

Ophelia, by Odilon Redon

The movement was  heavily influenced by such poets as Poe and Baudelaire, and its traits appeared in the work of a wide variety of painters, including Gustav Klimt, Edward Munch, and Frida Kahlo among many others. 

Leda And The Swan, by Odilon Redon

 "..The symbolist painters used mythological and dream imagery. The symbols used by symbolism are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography but intensely personal, private, obscure and ambiguous references...more a philosophy than an actual style of art.."~Ibid

Mystery, by Odilon Redon

Redon painted a wide variety of subjects and used a varying approach, so I hope you will find in the pictures I've selected or at the link provided below, one that will bring a thought or a dream to your pen. All his works shown here are in the public domain, but if you use one on your blog, please give the title and artist's name so others can come to know him, too.

Here are a few final examples, and you can find many more at 

"I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted.. an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased."
~Odilon Redon

Cup of Cognition(The Children's Cup) by Odilon Redon

Boat In The Moonlight, by Odilon Redon

Flowers, by Odilon Redon

Mask of The Red Death, another 'noir' by Odilon Redon

Ekphrasis Challenge

Ekphrasis::  a literary description of or commentary on a visual work of art (Merriam Webster)

So, toads, toadettes and friends of the site, let us jump directly into 'the mysterious world of the undetermined,' select a drawing or painting by Odilon Redon and write to the subject, mood, or theme which it suggests. You can write in any form, long or short, in free verse or prose poetry. You can write whether you are participating in the poem a day process, or just because one of the pictures speaks to you.

As usual, your response for this challenge should be new writing, or an older piece so extensively reworked and rewritten as to be new, which clearly conforms to the challenge subject matter. Please link below, and I will be around to see where the works of this favorite of mine take everyone. 


All artwork by Odilon Redon, Public Domain, via Quotes via wikipedia.


Susan said...

I LOVE this prompt. Thank you.

Sumana Roy said...

cool prompt...i chose leda and the swan, this being the name of one of my favorite poems of Yeats.
...thanks for the chance to scribble a few lines..

Anonymous said...

Great prompt! Fantastic images to be inspired by - and SO lovely to take a break from NaPoWriMo!

Anonymous said...

I love Redon. I have been in silly poem mode, but maybe can break out of it, I don't know--maybe not till true weekend. K.

Susie Clevenger said...

Absolutely love the challenge!

Margaret said...

This is WHY I love our challenges - I would never have written this poem (most of my poems) if not given this prompt. I'll be back later this evening as I have a lot of yard work to do today.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Thank you for the introduction to this artist, Hedge. I am afraid that I have been off my game these last two days - ill health and stress from the first week back at work. However, I will definitely return to these images at the weekend.

hedgewitch said...

Thanks everyone, for the great work I've read so far, and no rush to post--I will check back periodically over the next few days, or there's always Open Link Monday. Hope you are feeling better soon, Kerry.

Kerry O'Connor said...

This is really off the cuff, Hedge. I fear my enthusiasm for 30 poems in April is waning so I convinced myself to fling a few lines together. But I do intend to return to this source of inspiration and bring something more meaty to the fiesta.

hedgewitch said...

I thought yours was especially subtle and an excellent,fluid but sharp take, Kerry--that's what happens sometimes when one is pushed and just writes, and one of the reasons why I torture myself like this every year. ;_)

Hannah said...

What an excellent challenge, Hedge...thank you!!:)

Ella said...

Thank you Hedge! I love his art~
What a gift!

Other Mary said...

I love the artwork! I almost didn't get my damn poem written though! (pardon the language...but English is the only one I know ;-))
I'll be around to read and comment tomorrow. Thanks for the great prompt Hedge!

Anonymous said...

cool challenge, HW, and thanks for introducing me to M. Redon. ~

Fireblossom said...

Thanks so much, Hedge, for this introduction to an artist, and the chance to be inspired by his work!

Yvonne Osborne said...

This artist was unknown to me. Thank you so much. You have me neglecting other things!!! And sorry I'm late. Meant to post last night. I love the boat.

Kerry O'Connor said...

Yvonne, the link you left leads to the previous challenge. For those who could not find the post you intended us to read, here is the correct link.

hedgewitch said...

I am so blown away by what everyone has done with this prompt--as always, you all exceed my wildest expectations--thanks to everyone for the wonderful work here.

Margaret said...

I will be back later tonight to finish visiting and commenting.

Charleen said...

This was perfect. Loved the challenge.