About This Artwork

Odilon Redon
French, 1840-1916

Flower Clouds, c. 1903

Pastel, with touches of stumping, incising, and brushwork, on blue-gray wove paper with multi-colored fibers altered to tan, perimeter mounted to cardboard
445 x 542 mm
Signed lower left, in black conté crayon: "ODILON REDON"

Through prior bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1990.165

The evocative, symbolic art of Odilon Redon drew its inspiration from the internal world of his imagination. For years this student of Rodolphe Bresdin worked only in black and white, producing powerful and haunting charcoal drawings, lithographs, and etchings. Just as these black works, or Noirs, began to receive critical and public acclaim in the 1890s, Redon discovered the marvels of color through the use of pastel. His immersion in color and this new technique brought about a change in the artist's approach to his subject matter as well. Flower Clouds is one of a number of pastels executed around 1905 that are dominated by spiritual overtones. Here a sailboat bears two figures, perhapes two saintly women, on a timeless journey through a fantastic, phosphorescent sea and sky. The dreamlike skiff may reflect Redon's internal voyage, replacing the nocturnal turmoil of the earlier Noirs with a more hopeful vision. The luminous intensity of the pastels echoes the ardent spirituality of the theme.

— Entry, Essential Guide, 2013, p. 321.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Grand Palais, Salon d’automne, October 18-November 25, 1905, cat. 1311, as "Marine".

Paris, Hôtel de Ville, "Cercle d’art moderne," June 1906, cat. 27, as "Barque".

Paris, Galerie Barbazanges, "Odilon Redon," May 18- June 15, 1920, cat. 136, as "Barque au soleil couchant".

Paris, Galerie H. Odermatt, Ph. Cazeau, "Maîtres des XIX et XX Siècles," May 4-July 28, 1990, cat. 8.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "Odilon Redon: Prince of Dreams 1840-1916," July 2-September 18, 1994, no. 137, cat. by Douglas Druick, et al; the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, October 20, 1994-January 15, 1995, and the Royal Academy of Arts, London, February 16-May 21, 1995.

The Art Institute of Chicago, "The Broad Spectrum: Color on Paper, Past and Present," September 12–October 31, 1999, p. 256-257 (detail ill.).

Publication History

Henry Eon, Le Siècle (October 17, 1905).

Louis Vauxcelles, "Salle 1," Le Gil Blas (October 17, 1905).

Aubry, Le Petit Havre (November 7, 1905).

Quentin, Le Moniteur du XXème Siècle (November 5, 1905).

Ètienne Charles, "Odilon Redon," La Liberté (March 24, 1906).

M. Giry, "L’oeuvre de Redon et sa signification ver 1905," L’imformation d’histoire de l’art 2 (March-April 1970), p. 69.

The Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report (1989-1990), p. 5 (ill.).

"La Chronique des Arts. Principales Acquisitions des Musées en 1990," Gazette des Beaux-Arts (March 1991), p. 61 (ill.).

James N. Wood and Sally Ruth May, The Art Institute of Chicago: The Essential Guide (Chicago, 1993), p. 215 (ill.).

Oktavia Christ, "Wiederentdexkung eines Mystikers," Kunst und Antiquitäten (December 1994), p. 17 (ill.).

J. Coignard, "Odilon Redon, Prince des Mystérieux Rêves," Beaux-Arts Magazine (December 1994), p. 92-93 (ill.).

Alec Wildenstein, Odilon Redon, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint et dessiné 3 (Paris, 1996), p. 352, no. 1954 (ill.).

James Wood, Treasures from The Art Institute of Chicago (New York, 2000), p. 236 (ill.).

Dario Gamboni, Potential Images: Ambiguity and Indeterminacy in Modern Art (2002).

Harriet K. Stratis and Britt Salvesen (eds.), The Broad Spectrum: Studies in the Materials, Techniques, and Conservation of Color on Paper (London, 2002), pp. 265-157 (detail ill.).

Gerald Bromme and Nancy Kinne, Exploring Painting (2002).

The Essential Guide (Chicago, 2009), p. 307 (ill.).

Ownership History

Sold by the artist to Charles Waltner, Paris, February 1904 [Chicago 1994]; Charles Waltner, to 1926 [Wildenstein 1996]. Marcel Kapferer, Paris, c. 1930 [Wildenstein 1996]. Vogel, Versoix, Switzerland, 1947 [Wildenstein 1996]. Private collection, Switzerland, c. 1989 [Wildenstein 1996]. Sold, Hôtel des Ventes, Enghein, France, November 21, 1989, lot 8. Sold by Altman-Burke Fine Art Inc., New York, to the Art Institute, 1990.

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