Odilon Redon at Fitch-Febvrel Gallery
Art in Review, The New York Times, Friday, January 23, 1987, by Vivien Raynor.
Revered by Joseph Cornell, Odilon Redon (1840–1916) exists in a limbo similar to the American's. For some, he was to Symbolist art what Stéphane Mallarmé (another of Cornell's heroes) was to its poetry. The Surrealists, too, tried to make a father figure out of him. But again like Cornell, the painter as well as the illustrator of Baudelaire's poetry remained esthetically if not socially unclubbable. Around two dozen images, most of them lithographs, this selection doesn't presume to compete with that still on view at the Museum of Modern Art. Nevertheless, it has its own attractions, among them "La Nuit," a suite of six prints that is rare for being signed. This includes a portrait of Rodolphe Bresdin, who taught Redon etching as well as lithography and was a major influence.
Then there is "Le Rêve s'achève par la mort," a charcoal preliminary for the print of the same title that has only recently surfaced. It features death emerging from a cloud to gloat over a corpse floating in what could be any one of Hell's five rivers. Redon could teach today's makers of horror movies a thing or two: his vision of the hollow tree is, if anything, more menacing than his skeletons, chimera, malformed humanoids and other monsters. The most beautiful of the fantasies here is the rectangle of blackness inhabited by spiky silver shapes. A print from the third "Tentation de St. Antoine" album, it is one of the images that recall photographs of organisms living without light on the ocean floor.