May 19, 2010

Artist of the Week: Odilon Redon

The first in our weekly featured artists series! This series will feature artists, both historical and contemporary, who have relevance to a neo-romantic lifestyle and related fashions. Because visual art is such a direct way of sharing one's idealogical or aesthetic vision, it follows that those who share these ideals can take inspiration and interest away from such work. I think it's important for lolitas, mori girls, goths, and other  neo-romantic style cultures to be aware of these artists, and see how our fashions and lifestyles can incorporate their influence. Now on to the art!

Odilon Redon 1840-1916:  

Redon grew up in Bordeaux, France, and studied watercolor and drawing in the style of Delacroix. At the age of seventeen, Redon applied to École des Beaux-Arts in Paris to study architecture and was rejected. This early rejection, however, allowed Redon to hone his skills in drawing and to become acquainted in natural science and literature at the hand of his friend Armand Clavaud. Clavaud was a botanist and the operator of the Bordeaux Botanical Garden and first introduced Redon to the works of Baudelaire, Darwin, and other contemporaries, and first invited Redon to examine specimens through a microscope. This acquaintance with science became an important influence in his work, introducing him early on to the fantastic and sometimes grotesque planes of reality. Redon also began to study Eastern thought and read texts such as the Hindu Epics, giving shape to the budding themes of his work. In 1870, Redon took an artistic leave to fight in the War. His experiences on the battlefield also became influential to his work.

Odilon Redon, Frontispiece for Les Origines, lithograph, 1883. 
In the next years of his life, Odilon was able to form informative friendships with figures such as Stéphane Mellarmé, Rodolphe Bresdin, and Joris-Karl Huysmans. Much of his early work consists of lithographs and charcoal drawings depicting often grotesque and foreboding dream-states. Describing his work, Redon states "My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined." 

Odilon Redon, The Spirit of the Forest (Specter from a Giant Tree, Charcoal, 1880.

Odilon Redon, The Eye-Balloon, Charcoal, 1878.

Odilon Redon, The Smiling Spider, Charcoal, 1881.
Though Redon's early charcoals are most relevant to goths, gothic lolitas, and perhaps even antique dolls because of their moody execution and their fantastic and nightmarish imagery, his color work at the end of the century offers a different kind of inspiration. Though possessing a much more cheerful mood, Redon's later paintings are still rich with mystic symbolism  and dream-like fantasy, and many retain the spooky quality of his early charcoals. 
Odilon Redon, Mystery, Oil on Canvas, Undated. 
Odilon Redon, Panel, Distemper on Canvas, 1902.

Odilon Redon,  Parsifal, Pastel on Paper, 1912.
Odilon Redon, Cyclops, Oil on Canvas, 1914.
This transformation also is interesting because it demonstrates how a change in world view or attitude can still reflect the same influences and themes, and how though different from previous manifestations, is still clearly anchored in the same beliefs and experiences. This may be a familiar sentiment for those of us who acknowledge our changing tastes and interests, yet still feel the need to anchor our style to a clear ideology. 
Style Lessons from Redon:
+  Never forget science! Add bits of natural history to your look, whether it be it the form of a seashell necklace, a dried flower corsage, small branches to accent an up-do for a more OTT mori look, or even a piece of taxidermy jewelry. If you are more of a parlour-lady than a wild-child, you could try creating a small curiosity cabinet, or a shelf to display natural items that inspire you.   
+ Channel the Charcoal! For a more classic style goth look, or a more gothic classic look, try pairing beige and sand tones with black in the essence of Redon's charcoal drawings. If your looking to go further with your look, try evoking the fluidity of the drawings with chiffons and batistes.
+ Creature Comforts!  Redon's drawings and paintings commonly feature strange little animals and creatures, get a bit of this theme by coordinating in animal or monster themed accessories. His spider series always reminds me of those fur-ball scarfs and hair ties. If wearable beasts aren't your thing, take some time and make drawings of imaginary creatures, or just the creatures in your backyard.
+ Spooky Hues! Redon's later work features very vivid and fairly unusual color palates, often consisting of hues that are not commonly found in lolita, mori girl, or goth (or even most art at this time!). This is a great opportunity to experiment with odd or uncommon colors while still keeping within a dark or spooky aesthetic. Try them out in the form of interesting floral prints and accessories, contrasting shoes, bags, and even blouses, or through quirky pieces of jewelry. For mori girls and antique dolls who may already be familiar with these tones and motifs, try playing up the fantastic or horror elements still present in these later pieces. Perhaps try working a veil or whithered garland into your coordinate.


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