New York

Odilon Redon

Acquavella Galleries

Little need be said in connection with the supreme selection of later Odilon Redon flower pieces and reverie studies at the Acquavella Galleries for the benefit of Lenox Hill Hospital. Ever since The Museum of Modern Art survey of Re-don, Bresdin and Moreau and recent re-editions of Redon’s graphics, the artist is regarded as a Symbolist only by default. Theoretically a member, indeed a leader of the movement, Redon now has the following, the “box-office,” of a Renoir. What is interesting about this exhibition, especially as we are able to compare it with the Samuels show, is the degree to which Redon drops out of the movement. We begin to think of him as above style and taste in the same way that we regard Gauguin. Is it that as Redon becomes a consecrated figure he begins to bore?

The flower pieces, at least so many at once, begin to strike a repetitive, even commonplace note. The decapitated heads, profiles of an Ophelia-type played against atmospheres of phosphorescent floral plankton, have by this time become set pieces. Only the Saint Sebastian, his body half-female, alludes to the esoterica which the oeuvre was once thought to possess to overflowing. Also in this far more suggestive vein, Le Chevalier mystique, a grisaille pastel hors catalogue, is extraordinary for the number of Rosicrucian allusions it makes. It seems to me that the dating of 1890 may be moved up a few years for in 1896 when Armand Point and Léonard Sarluys designed the poster for the Fifth Salon de la Rose+Croix, they had depicted a similar warrior also holding a decapitated head at arm’s length. In Redon’s version the warrior confronts a sphinx. He is, in short, Oedipus. In this issue of dating then, as well as in the figure, Fernand Khnopff’s contemporary L’Art or Les Caresses must also be pointed to.

Robert Pincus-Witten