Darkened skies, bare landscapes, burnt plains, hollow tree trunks, mud, dry leaves, rocks, monstrous beings, images of ape-like skulls with protuberant eyebrows; nightmarish images, fantastic and insane... Such are Odilon Redon's charcoal drawings. Charcoal doesn't allow you to be pleasant, it is stern; you can't use it unless it's with feeling itself - he said. Noirs was a word the artist wrote with a capital letter. He used it to represent his world of sombre and surreal visions, a world filled with hundreds of drawings and illustrations.
Redon lived at the same time as some of the best colour artists, such as the Impressionists and Les Nabis. We remember Redon's exuberant use of colour and shine and, in a way, its cheerfulness, so it's hard to imagine that he was capable of drawing such morbid images. The origin of his pessimism goes back, as it seems, to his sad childhood, spent in a lonely and quiet place, away from his parents: Every human being there seems to extinguish himself, destroyed and disconnected, each with their hurt eyes, in their abandonment of themselves as well as the place., he wrote.
However, surprisingly, in his fifties, the artist "discovers" colour, radically changing his way of drawing and painting. This new fase, that would last until the end of his life, is seperate from the former. Redon will never return to his 'Noirs'.
More images at the Gallery.