Odilon redon noirs


And my third strange coincidence occurred today. After a quick stint in the library I left to prepare for a flight back to the UK, stopping first to meet a friend for coffee. On my way I was stopped by a « chugger » with the usual greeting of « you look friendly ». On explaining that I could not help her as I am leaving after a research trip, she enquired as to the nature of my research, before waxing eloquently about the work of Alain Corbin and histories of emotions before presenting me with her email address so that I can send her a copy of the monograph once it is completed.

So, my year of library research visits concludes with a series of coincidences, one of which provides an interesting closure to the sabbatical research experience, in a year which began and ended with curious encounters with strangers involving in some way Patrick Süskind’s novella The Pigeon.

And in homage to the BnF, where I have received so much invaluable assistance in my research, I should perhaps post a couple of snaps taken on that wonderful esplanade, beginning with my last ever BnF image…

As I sit here, looking out of the window on a rainy Paris, while I write, and while I prepare to visit the BnF tomorrow afternoon for yet more research and writing, umbrella after umbrella pass below, in a kind of Brownian motion with a difference, the difference being that there are no collisions as they skate randomly along. It all rather puts me in mind of the opening credits of Jacques Demy’s (1964) Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. Here, for good measure, are a couple of instagrams I took yesterday.

It’s rather funny how things turn out, because I am staying not a million miles away from the scene of Robert Massart’s putatively phobic attack against passing umbrellas on Avenue d’Orléans one rainy November day in 1932. I have already blogged about this case, and will be returning to it in coming days, and it rather tickles me to stay close to an incident I have spent some time unpicking.

One of the most enjoyable features of my research has been the willingness and generosity of complete strangers on discovering the nature of my work. An encounter I rather liked was during my interview to enrol as a member at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. As soon as I explained my work, the kindly staff member smiled and began telling me about a particular fear she has.

My job as research assistant to Marcia Reed, chief curator at the Getty Research Institute, and Louis Marchesano, curator of prints & drawings, might be described as “research becomes eclectic.” In addition to investigating a wide array of potential acquisitions across the period of A.D. 1500 to the present, I’ve spent much of the past eight months researching the diverse prints now on view in The Getty Research Institute: Recent Print Acquisitions (through September 2). I’ve always struggled to pick a “favorite” historical period or artist, and honestly this job only makes that more difficult!

Inevitably, however, there are particular artists whose work I find especially appealing. I have recently become immersed in the graphic work of Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916) thanks to working on an additional display featuring his prints in the West Pavilion of the J. Paul Getty Museum, which went up at the same time as the GRI print show.

It seems that every modern period and place produces an auteur whose visions veer toward the realms of the strange, the dreamily dark, and the surreal. During the first half of his career Redon filled this role, gaining acclaim for creating bizarre and haunting visuals based on literature and his own imaginary scenarios. Flaming eyeballs float before a mountain range; fishlike creatures sport huge human heads and tiny hands; a giant man pauses outside a window while two small figures gesture towards him. Redon made these visions concrete via the lithograph, exploiting that medium’s ability to achieve dramatically contrasting blacks and whites.

But then, in a gradual and eventually definitive shift, Redon seems to have truly embraced the belle in Belle Epoque. Around 1890, he began producing fewer black and white lithographs ( belles in their own ways, of course) in favor of lighter, more woozily ethereal and Edenic imagery rendered in luminous, deep colors, as demonstrated beautifully by a pastel and pencil drawing in the collection of the Getty Museum.

Redon’s colorful work retains a certain odd dreaminess, but more in the sense of a fantastic daydream than an otherworldly nightmare. With recent acquisitions of Redon prints by the GRI, visitors to the Getty can now glimpse both sides of Redon: the dark and the light.

Redon experimented obsessively with the tonal extremes of the lithograph, seemingly in the hopes of articulating—via literal lights and darks—the range and particularly the extremes of psychological experience. Unlike woodcuts or intaglio prints such as etching and engraving, lithography is a planar medium in which the artist doesn’t have to incise a metal plate or cut into a plank of wood. The method is much closer to drawing, in that the artist works with a greasy crayonlike tool on a flat surface (most often a stone, hence the “litho”). In this way the artist determines which parts of the stone the equally greasy ink will cling to, and can then make multiple impressions from one design.

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'.

The Obvious is a site where everything and anything goes; important things seemingly unimportant, to timeless topics, to things we love. Art, architecture, music, photography, cinema, design or any other subject.

And my third strange coincidence occurred today. After a quick stint in the library I left to prepare for a flight back to the UK, stopping first to meet a friend for coffee. On my way I was stopped by a « chugger » with the usual greeting of « you look friendly ». On explaining that I could not help her as I am leaving after a research trip, she enquired as to the nature of my research, before waxing eloquently about the work of Alain Corbin and histories of emotions before presenting me with her email address so that I can send her a copy of the monograph once it is completed.

So, my year of library research visits concludes with a series of coincidences, one of which provides an interesting closure to the sabbatical research experience, in a year which began and ended with curious encounters with strangers involving in some way Patrick Süskind’s novella The Pigeon.

And in homage to the BnF, where I have received so much invaluable assistance in my research, I should perhaps post a couple of snaps taken on that wonderful esplanade, beginning with my last ever BnF image…

As I sit here, looking out of the window on a rainy Paris, while I write, and while I prepare to visit the BnF tomorrow afternoon for yet more research and writing, umbrella after umbrella pass below, in a kind of Brownian motion with a difference, the difference being that there are no collisions as they skate randomly along. It all rather puts me in mind of the opening credits of Jacques Demy’s (1964) Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. Here, for good measure, are a couple of instagrams I took yesterday.

It’s rather funny how things turn out, because I am staying not a million miles away from the scene of Robert Massart’s putatively phobic attack against passing umbrellas on Avenue d’Orléans one rainy November day in 1932. I have already blogged about this case, and will be returning to it in coming days, and it rather tickles me to stay close to an incident I have spent some time unpicking.

One of the most enjoyable features of my research has been the willingness and generosity of complete strangers on discovering the nature of my work. An encounter I rather liked was during my interview to enrol as a member at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. As soon as I explained my work, the kindly staff member smiled and began telling me about a particular fear she has.

And my third strange coincidence occurred today. After a quick stint in the library I left to prepare for a flight back to the UK, stopping first to meet a friend for coffee. On my way I was stopped by a « chugger » with the usual greeting of « you look friendly ». On explaining that I could not help her as I am leaving after a research trip, she enquired as to the nature of my research, before waxing eloquently about the work of Alain Corbin and histories of emotions before presenting me with her email address so that I can send her a copy of the monograph once it is completed.

So, my year of library research visits concludes with a series of coincidences, one of which provides an interesting closure to the sabbatical research experience, in a year which began and ended with curious encounters with strangers involving in some way Patrick Süskind’s novella The Pigeon.

And in homage to the BnF, where I have received so much invaluable assistance in my research, I should perhaps post a couple of snaps taken on that wonderful esplanade, beginning with my last ever BnF image…

As I sit here, looking out of the window on a rainy Paris, while I write, and while I prepare to visit the BnF tomorrow afternoon for yet more research and writing, umbrella after umbrella pass below, in a kind of Brownian motion with a difference, the difference being that there are no collisions as they skate randomly along. It all rather puts me in mind of the opening credits of Jacques Demy’s (1964) Les Parapluies de Cherbourg. Here, for good measure, are a couple of instagrams I took yesterday.

It’s rather funny how things turn out, because I am staying not a million miles away from the scene of Robert Massart’s putatively phobic attack against passing umbrellas on Avenue d’Orléans one rainy November day in 1932. I have already blogged about this case, and will be returning to it in coming days, and it rather tickles me to stay close to an incident I have spent some time unpicking.

One of the most enjoyable features of my research has been the willingness and generosity of complete strangers on discovering the nature of my work. An encounter I rather liked was during my interview to enrol as a member at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. As soon as I explained my work, the kindly staff member smiled and began telling me about a particular fear she has.

My job as research assistant to Marcia Reed, chief curator at the Getty Research Institute, and Louis Marchesano, curator of prints & drawings, might be described as “research becomes eclectic.” In addition to investigating a wide array of potential acquisitions across the period of A.D. 1500 to the present, I’ve spent much of the past eight months researching the diverse prints now on view in The Getty Research Institute: Recent Print Acquisitions (through September 2). I’ve always struggled to pick a “favorite” historical period or artist, and honestly this job only makes that more difficult!

Inevitably, however, there are particular artists whose work I find especially appealing. I have recently become immersed in the graphic work of Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916) thanks to working on an additional display featuring his prints in the West Pavilion of the J. Paul Getty Museum, which went up at the same time as the GRI print show.

It seems that every modern period and place produces an auteur whose visions veer toward the realms of the strange, the dreamily dark, and the surreal. During the first half of his career Redon filled this role, gaining acclaim for creating bizarre and haunting visuals based on literature and his own imaginary scenarios. Flaming eyeballs float before a mountain range; fishlike creatures sport huge human heads and tiny hands; a giant man pauses outside a window while two small figures gesture towards him. Redon made these visions concrete via the lithograph, exploiting that medium’s ability to achieve dramatically contrasting blacks and whites.

But then, in a gradual and eventually definitive shift, Redon seems to have truly embraced the belle in Belle Epoque. Around 1890, he began producing fewer black and white lithographs ( belles in their own ways, of course) in favor of lighter, more woozily ethereal and Edenic imagery rendered in luminous, deep colors, as demonstrated beautifully by a pastel and pencil drawing in the collection of the Getty Museum.

Redon’s colorful work retains a certain odd dreaminess, but more in the sense of a fantastic daydream than an otherworldly nightmare. With recent acquisitions of Redon prints by the GRI, visitors to the Getty can now glimpse both sides of Redon: the dark and the light.

Redon experimented obsessively with the tonal extremes of the lithograph, seemingly in the hopes of articulating—via literal lights and darks—the range and particularly the extremes of psychological experience. Unlike woodcuts or intaglio prints such as etching and engraving, lithography is a planar medium in which the artist doesn’t have to incise a metal plate or cut into a plank of wood. The method is much closer to drawing, in that the artist works with a greasy crayonlike tool on a flat surface (most often a stone, hence the “litho”). In this way the artist determines which parts of the stone the equally greasy ink will cling to, and can then make multiple impressions from one design.


Odilon Redon – Kiama Art Gallery

Symbolism – Odilon Redon; Night and Day – Kiama Art Gallery

    And my third strange coincidence occurred today. After a quick stint in the library I left to prepare for a flight back to the UK, stopping first to meet a friend for coffee. On my way I was stopped by a « chugger » with the usual greeting of « you look
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