Showcasing Varied Works From Mysterious 'Noirs' to Vibrant Pastels, 'Collecting Dreams: Odilon Redon' Exhibition Debuts at Cleveland Museum of Art

  • October 04, 2021 12:04

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Violette Heymann, 1910. Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916). Pastel; 72 x 92 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Hinman B. Hurlbut Collection, 1926.1976
Quasimodo, c. 1875–80. Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916). Charcoal with fabricated black chalk and touches of white and gray gouache on gray wove paper; 36.8 x 32.9 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund, 2020.63

Odilon Redon (1840–1916) was known as “the prince of mysterious dreams” for creating paintings, drawings and prints that blend fantasy, literature and the subconscious. Collecting Dreams: Odilon Redon celebrates the Cleveland Museum of Art’s (CMA) exceptional holdings of works by Redon, including a newly acquired charcoal drawing, Quasimodo, on view for the first time. The exhibition reveals Redon’s history in Cleveland and introduces the phases of his career and work. Collecting Dreams: Odilon Redon is on view now through January 23, 2022, at the CMA. 

Then There Appears a Singular Being, Having the Head of a Man on the Body of a Fish, from The Temptation of Saint Anthony (First Series), 1888. Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916). Lithograph; 44.1 x 30.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Print Club of Cleveland, 1927.354

“The CMA was among the first American museums to collect the work of this groundbreaking artist, and early gifts and purchases earned the museum an international reputation as the most important repository of Redon’s work outside France,” said William M. Griswold, director of the CMA. “The exhibition chronicles nearly 100 years of collecting, and we look forward to sharing these important and enigmatic works with our visitors.”

Acquired in 2020, Quasimodo is from a group of drawings that Redon termed “noirs” for their use of black materials, such as charcoal, and their foreboding mood. This recent addition to the museum’s collection exemplifies his experimentation throughout the series. The exhibition also features one of the artist’s most significant late paintings, Andromeda (1912), a loan from the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts that was exhibited for the first time in the United States at the CMA in 1926, alongside works by Redon from Cleveland’s collection. 

Andromeda, 1912. Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916). Oil on canvas; 165.1 x 88.9 cm. The Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of David Rockefeller, 1963.012. Photograph courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art

Redon studied briefly in Paris before rejecting his conservative training and returning to his native Bordeaux in southern France. There, he spent a decade depicting highly original, often bizarre themes executed exclusively in black, ranging from inky lithographs to dense charcoal drawings. Around 1890, Redon’s work completely changed when he discovered pastel, a powdery material made from pure pigment. For the remainder of his life, he created colorful visions drawn from mythology, religion and his social circle.

“I hope that visitors—even those learning about Redon’s work for the first time—will be drawn in by his strange and fascinating style. His enormously varied paintings, prints, and drawings appealed to the CMA’s early curators when they were still contemporary art and considered extremely speculative purchases for an American museum. These works are rarely on view, and the exhibition is an unprecedented opportunity to learn about this exciting modern artist,” said Britany Salsbury, associate curator of prints and drawings. 

Collecting Dreams: Odilon Redon includes a section developed with the museum’s conservation department that explores the artist’s processes and materials in depth. Additional content about every artwork on view in the exhibition is available through the augmented reality (AR) scanning feature in CMA’s ArtLens App. Visitors simply aim their device at any artwork to see AR hot spots on the screen, giving them the opportunity to get a closer look at details and learn more through this unique interactive experience.  

Tags: european art

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