Signed Odilon Redon (bottom center)
Oil on canvas laid down on board
Painted circa 1894.
René Philipon, Paris
M. Huc, Paris
Baron Robert de Domecy, France (acquired circa 1910)
Private Collection (by descent from the above and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 3, 1993, lot 22)
Acquired at the above sale
The Art Institute of Chicago; Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum; London, Royal Academy of Arts, Odilon Redon, Prince of Dreams 1840-1916, 1994-95, no. 118
The contemplative boy represented in La coupe du devenir (L'Enfant à la coupe) was most probably the artist's son, Ari Redon. Surrounded by bursts of varying shades of purple and yellow, the child is the personification of unspoiled youth and innocence. Redon depicts this figure as he gazes into a luminous chalice filled with vices: The faces here are typical Symbolist images that represent the seductive evils of the world. The large purple shadow that falls between the figure and the cup unifies the elements of the composition and also provides a barrier between the boy and his temptations.
The present work was painted circa 1894, when Redon was still struggling for acceptance within the Parisian art world. While often misunderstood and scorned by his contemporaries, the artist was to become a master to future generations of painters, including the Belgian group, Les XX and the Nabis in France. Perhaps one of the earliest and most eloquent champions of his work was, in the words of John Rewald, "a semi-obscure but rather gifted critic by the name of Emile Hennequin." The critic wrote in Revue Artistique et Littéraire, on March 4, 1882 that: "From now on M. Odilon Redon should be considered one of our masters . . . an outstanding master who, aside from Goya, has neither ancestor nor follower. Somewhere on the boundary between reality and fantasy he has conquered a desolate domain which he has peopled with formidable phantoms, monsters, monads (and) composite beings . . . This work is bizarre; it touches the grandiose, the delicate, the subtle, the perverse, the angelic . . . It contains a treasure of dreams and suggestions . . . " (quoted in John Rewald, Studies in Post-Impressionism, New York, 1986, p. 216).
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