Madrid, Spain. The Fundacion Mapfre is currently showing “Odilon Redon”, on view through April 29th. This exhibition is the first major retrospective of this French artist’s oeuvre in Spain. A hundred and seventy works, including drawings, prints and paintings, will enable visitors to meet one of the key players in the genesis of modern art, who is also one of the least well-known. His work is a clear precedent for expressionisism, metaphysical painting and surrealism, and some of the works from the latter stage of his career are within striking distance of the abstractionists. The exhibition has been produced in collaboration with the Musee D’Orsay in Paris.
The exhibition is chronologically themed and begins with his early years as a lithographer under the guidance of Rodolphe Bresdin, and folloows the artist through the period of colour and his grand pieces, from what he called his noirs in the atmosphere of the symbolists to his mythological scenes and “The Chariot of Apollo”, an ode to light. This path of shade and light followed by the artist has no comparison in the history of art and is presented in this exhibition through a selection of 170 masterpieces from various institutions, which include oils, drawings, etchings, decorative panels and sketches for textiles. Also included in the exhibition are works from the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux and the Staatliche Kunsthalle in Karlsruhe, as well as from important, foreign private collections.
Odilon Redon was born in Bordeaux, Aquitaine, to a prosperous family. The young Bertrand-Jean Redon acquired the nickname “Odilon” from his mother, Odile. Redon started drawing as a child, and at the age of ten he was awarded a drawing prize at school. Aged fifteen, he began the formal study of drawing, but on the insistence of his father he changed to architecture. His failure to pass the entrance exams at Paris’ Ecole des Beaux-Arts ended any plans for a career as an architect, although he briefly studied painting there under Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1864. (His younger brother Gaston Redon would become a noted architect. Back home in his native Bordeaux, he took up sculpture, and Rodolphe Bresdin instructed him in etching and lithography. His artistic career was interrupted in 1870 when he joined the army to serve in the Franco-Prussian War. At the end of the war, he moved to Paris, working almost exclusively in charcoal and lithography. He called his visionary works, conceived in shades of black, his noirs. It would not be until 1878 that his work gained any recognition with Guardian Spirit of the Waters, and he published his first album of lithographs, titled Dans le Reve, in 1879. Still, Redon remained relatively unknown until the appearance in 1884 of a cult novel by Joris-Karl Huysmans titled, rebours (Against Nature). The story featured a decadent aristocrat who collected Redon’s drawings. In the 1890s, pastel and oils became his favored media, and he produced no more noirs after 1900. In 1899, he exhibited with the Nabis at Durand-Ruel’s. In 1903 he was awarded the Legion of Honor. His popularity increased when a catalogue of etchings and lithographs was published by André Mellerio in 1913 and that same year, he was given the largest single representation at the New York Armory Show. Redon died on July 6, 1916. In 1923 Mellerio published: Odilon Redon: Peintre Dessinateur et Graveur. An archive of Mellerio’s papers is held by the Ryerson & Burnham Libraries at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Institute of Culture of Fundacion Mapfre in Madrid is an institution rooted in the Latin-American world. For more than 20 years It has tirelessly launched and supported initiatives making a huge sum of knowledge available. In the fields of art and culture, this is best shown through it’s Madrid gallery. With a focus on modern, 20th century drawings, the collection gathered by foundation includes works by Spanish masters such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Salvador Dali, Dario de Regoyes and Eduardo Chillida, as well as international avant-garde masters including Henri Matisse, Paul Klee, Francis Picabia, Lazslo Moholy Nagy, Kurt Schwitters and George Grosz. Among others, It owns a complete set of the Vollard Suite, the most important collection of engravings in the 20th century, but its singularity lies in the prominent role played by the masters of Spanish modernism, such as José Gutiérrez Solana and Daniel Vázquez Díaaz, and the complete estate of major Art Deco illustrator Rafael de Penagos. The goal of the collection is to embrace Spanish modernity and to lay empahisis on its masters that happen to be quite unrepresented in Spanish public collections. 20th and 21th century photography is the other focus of the collection, which includes essential names in the history of the art such as Eugene Atget, Lee Frielander, Diane Arbus, and Lisette Model, as well as contemporary artists like Fazal Sheikh, Graciela Iturbide and Dayanita Singh. The collection is about representing artists which have only a marginal presence in Spanish public collections for now. Visit the foundations website at … http://www.mapfre.com/fundacion/es/home-fundacion-mapfre.shtml