Visionary Noir

Haunted-Odilon Redon 1896
From 1870 to the turn of the century the French Symbolist artist Odilon Redon worked almost exclusively in the medium of charcoal drawing and lithographs. Redon called this extraordinary body of work his noirs. Throughout his career Redon’s expressed intent was to place ‘the logic of the visible at the service of the invisible’,  an aesthetic doctrine that strongly resonated with the Surrealists. Straddling that perilous hinterland between dream, hallucination and otherworldly visions, the noirs present a haunting, nocturnal world that is forever sliding into nightmare.

It was the publication of the bible of Decadence A Rebours by JK Huysmans  in 1884 that Redon found fame. The archetypal world-weary Decadent Des Esseintes collects and describes in great detail Redon’s lithographs. After 1900 Redon turned to pastels and oils in paintings that reflected his interest in Buddhism and Japanese art and that became increasingly abstract in his latter years.

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43 thoughts on “Visionary Noir

      1. Interesting: I was thinking “Goya” with that first photo. Blake is certainly a visionary. I have just discovered his illustrations to Young’s Night Thoughts: it has been hidden behind my fridge for years. Don’t ask.

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      2. I won’t ask because I think I will be shocked. Redon mentioned Blakes Ghost of a flea so that was a clear influence and of course Goya had his black paintings. Blake was without doubt a visionary and one of my favourites.

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      3. I did one previous post on the black paintings called Painting it black and have been meaning to do another one for ages. Especially the witches. I might do a noir trilogy as I am thinking about a piece on Alfred Kubin next who was influenced by both Goya and Redon

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  1. So would Redon be considered a Decadent because these works seem very different. I like the one with the guy carrying the box with holes, as if he has taken something out of the forest.

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    1. That one is called The Gambler. He would be considered a Symbolist, although the terms are interchangeable you could be more Symbolist or more Decadent. He is also a visionary. He did a picture of Salome, a favourite Decadent theme, and as mentioned in the post he was referred to, in raptures in the Decadent novel A Rebours (Against Nature). It is very confusing I am sorry.

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      1. It’s just a lot of terms I’ve never heard of. But I like to learn new things. 😊 What do you mean he’s a visionary? I noticed you said he was talked about in the novel- was it for these works in the slideshow?

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      2. Not necessary those pictures just he work in generally… Visionary either refers to a artist who paints hallucinations, religious visions, dreams etc or to an artist who relies more on his own subjective imagination than external reality. An artist that relies on external reality is either a realist or a naturalist, however to confuse things further a lot of decadent writers started out as naturalists, including the author of the novel A Rebours.

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      3. Thank you so much for the explanations. 😊 I suppose a lot of artists change from one category to another so that makes it harder.

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    1. Thank you, I thought you would like the disembodied head, that one is called Portrait of a Martyr and if you look at the spider he is crying. How is Mr Cakes art classes going? I always really wanted to be an artist but I can barely draw a matchstick man. Oh well.

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