Research Point – Odilon Redon, Two Trees c.1875

If only we could all manage to convey so much feeling in our work as Redon does here, the clever contrast between the dark shadows and brightly lit trees focus our attention, giving the trees a vitality that is almost human-like. The use of chiaroscuro focuses the eye on the parts you might normally skip, forcing you to look at the detail of the varied marks used. It is evocative, expressive and almost emotional, the left tree leans into the right tree, rather like two people meeting for a private conversation.


Redon was a French symbolist painter, printmake, draughtsman and pastellist, with a clear love of detail, even in the small details of the flowers and the darkest areas.

Around this time he made many other works of art, including this Angel in Chains, very colourful but still with the powerful contrast of light and dark


A few years earlier in 1872 he drew Fallen Angel, again with the same focus on the interplay between light and dark, he understood the dramatic element it added.fallen-angel-1872

It is clear to see the influence of Rodolphe Bresdin on his work, his master and teacher who was himself interested in depicting nature and its intricate details.39

Clifford Ackley, chairman of the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, called Redon ‘the father of modern art, coming of age with the onset of the French Symbolist poetry movement of the 1860s, he sprung more from literature than the visual arts, eventually having a huge impact on surrealism.’ His other works depict a surreal world of impossible landscapes, strange creatures and demons.


He was a close friend of Les Nabis, the prophets or symbolists, who believed in the idea that colour and shape could represent experience. He was influence by Rembrandt and his chiaroscuro technique and also  by his many years of working in monochrome. It taught him the importance of tone.ophelia