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Flowers

Painting, 61.9×47.6 cm

Description of the artwork «Flowers»

The flowers of the mature Redon look like the real ones. They are placed in the vases and consist of visible parts: stems, petals and leaves. They are naively natural and carelessly harmonious in the bouquets. And yet, a long close look at Redon's floral still lifes gives the viewers the willies. Some touchingly sensible researchers even claim that the floral still lifes of the 60-year-old Redon are crazier and scarier than his early beasts and monsters drawn in charcoal. When it gets to critics, it isn't about the real fright of a spectator, but rather about a professional way of drawing attention to Redon's bouquets and explaining their non-randomness in the visionary, dreamy, imaginative world of the artist.

In his youth, Redon drew in charcoal and printed his famous noirs in one colour: sad human heads growing on thin stems in the marshes and the concentrated young human-faced flower buds swaying on thin stems above the bowl, similar to the ritual one (the artist's illustrations to Charles Baudelaire's Flowers of Evil). In Redon's mature "colour" works, typically made in pastel, the flowers grow from nowhere: they blossom in the sky above the Buddha's head, twine around Ophelia, soar in the weightlessness of space or in laboratory sterility, full of colour spots disintegrated into stamens and seeds. The unidentified galaxies, the unattributed worlds, concealing a special internal rhythm and inertia of the emerging life.

It is clear that Redon's flowers are living and complex organisms.

In the 1900s, he painted floral still lifes mostly because they did well. Bouquets in vases: sometimes one can recognize camomiles and poppies, nasturtiums and cornflowers in them. Sometimes his flowers are imaginary: unearthly, non-existent, inaccessible to identification by botanical atlases. Still, while creating commercially popular still-lifes, Redon never changed himself to get an obvious profit. Redon remained Redon.

In 1907, French art critics George Athénas and Aimé Merlo, using a pen name Marius-Ary Leblond, published the first article-justification for Redon's flowers in the journal Revue illustrée. The artist, rarely mentioned in the press before, was delighted with the article and said that he finally felt alive and rewarded for his changes. Leblond wrote: "Amazed to the point of anxiety by the shades of the flower, astonished to the point of a most naïve adoration of its form, he was soon struck by the revelation that nothing is more mysterious than nature itself, and from that moment he became absorbed in its clarity just as he had plumbed the deep recesses of his imagination. He painted flowers exactly as we know them and just as we see them: geraniums amongst velvety leaves, marguerites, quivering clumps of acacia, orange wallflowers and nasturtiums, and with their slender stems bursting forth, their dazzling corollas fixed, and their sparkling nuances of colour suspended in time, it seemed as if these flowers had just appeared before our very eyes, through a miracle. When we look at them, we too emerge from the shadows."

Redon remained an artist who sought the supernatural, the invisible. But inevitably accumulating the experience of observing nature, he discovered that there was no need to invent anything anymore. There was nothing more mystical than nature itself.

Author: Anna Sidelnikova
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About the artwork

Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Still life

Style of art: Symbolism

Technique: Pastel

Materials: Paper blue

Size: 61.9×47.6 cm

Artwork in selections: 4 selections

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