Redon's exquisite floral still lifes are considered by many the apogee of the artist's production, the most successful of which are his pastels. The velvety texture of this medium added a sensual dimension to the subject, evoking the feel and even the fragrance of each petal and leaf. Redon's skill for eliciting tangible sensations set him apart from his colleagues, and his floral pastels ultimately came to define his Symbolist identity.
"Fleurs, venues au confluent de deux rivages, celui de la représentation, celui du souvenir. Flowers, at the confluence of two riverbanks, that of representation and that of memory."
Redon first explored the subject of floral still lifes in the 1860s, but soon turned his attention to the developing Symbolist movement, creating his noir series of drawings and mystical compositions. Having returned to the still-life genre at the turn of the century, Redon retained the ethereal quality of his previous work. As Richard Hobbs explained: "'These fragile scented beings, admirable prodigies of light,' as he later described them, were providing him with a motif through which to develop the joyful and spiritual transformation of natural forms that is characteristic of so many of his colour works...He associated flowers with a delicate but fundamental kind of artistic expression. Flowers were becoming a theme of primary importance to Redon, both as motifs for experimentation with colour and as the expression of a personal lyricism" (Richard Hobbs, Odilon Redon, London, 1977, p. 139).
The present work was previously in the collection of Horace O. Havemeyer, an American industrialist who, with his wife Louisine, was one of the first collectors to bring Impressionism to America. Louisine was close friends with Mary Cassatt, who introduced her to works by Degas and Monet, among others. A large portion of their collection was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This work remained in the family until it was gifted to the Brooklyn Museum in 1971.