. Research project – explore the work of Odilion Redon and his use of tone

imageimageimageOdilion Redon 1840-1916 was born in Bordeaux France. He is usually referred to as belonging to the symbolism art movement. Before looking at his work as part of this research project I was only familiar with Redon’s very colourful and vibrant paintings mainly of decorative subjects such as flowers or scences from classical mythology. During my research I. Discovered that he was also a very profilic print maker producing a large volumn of prints, drawings and charcoal pictures.

Redon until around 1890 produced most of his work in black and white which he called his ‘noirs’

it was the noirs that I looked at for this research project. I began with the charcoal example ‘two trees’ c1875. The drawing shows two hollow tree trunks. Redon uses different techniques to suggest the organic living form of the trees. The charcoal is built up in layers suggesting light and tone. The blocks of dark tone draw the eye to the sinister dark space between the trees. Redon uses a stippling effect to suggest shapes and form and to suggest the texture of the tree bark. The drawing appears solid with a strong Sense of movement. But for me the negative dark space between the tree draws my eye into what is expressed but unseen. The whole drawing has a sense of depth and atmosphere. I then looked at other drawings – ‘ the fairy ( profile of light ) 1882 is very ethereal and delicate the charcoal is used sparingly  on the fairy’s face giving her a mysterious quality. The background is much darker in tone so the only light source is on the face and profile. With just tone Redon cleverly suffices the fairy with atmosphere. Redon produced other drawings of trees including a drawing in pencil on coloured paper – he use the pencil to gradually build up the tone using small and sparse pencil marks. Redon was clearly able to use tone skilfully in different mediums,

looking closely at Redon’s ‘noirs’ I was able to conclude how the use of tone can create atmosphere using different drawing techniques. Essentially tone provides a light source. Tone adds dimension , it defines shapes and shadows. Tone can add solidity and structure changing and enhancing the look of a drawing. Tone can also be used to add movement. Odilion Redon certainly knew how to use tone effectively and skilfully.


‘two trees’   Http://wiki paintings.org

‘drawing of a tree’.  www.moma.org

,’the fairy’ ( profile in light )   http://www.fitzwilliam.cam.ac.uk/

Tate online

musee d’ orsay

BOOK  – ‘symbolism art’ by Edward Lucie-Smith 1995 edition Thames and Hudson


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