Lot 156
  • 156

Odilon Redon

300,000 - 500,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Odilon Redon
  • Bouquet au petit vase bleu
  • signed Odilon Redon (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 55.2 by 46.3cm., 21¾ by 18¼in.


Charles W. Kraushaar, New York
The Lefevre Gallery, London (acquired circa 1929)
Étienne Bignou, Paris (acquired circa 1929)
Mrs J. D. Rockefeller Jr., New York
Knoedler & Co., New York (acquired in 1938)
Mrs Frederick Clark, New York (acquired from the above in 1940)
Sale: Christie's, New York, 9th November 1994, lot 19
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition of fruit and flower paintings, 1933


Charles Fegdal, Odilon Redon, Paris, 1929, illustrated pl. XLVI
Alec Wildenstein, Odilon Redon, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint et dessiné Fleurs et paysages, Paris, 1992, vol. III, no. 1468, illustrated pp. 82 & 83


The canvas is not lined. There is a layer of varnish preventing UV light from fully penetrating, however UV light examination does reveal a few scattered spots of retouchings to the right part of the bouquet and above the central pink flower. There is an area to the centre of the upper edge which has also possibly been restored. There are areas of fluorescence throughout the background which would appear to be due to the artist's materials and techniques. There are some very minor fine lines of stable craquelure to the left part of the vase. There is a lovely impasto to the flowers, this work is in overall good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Redon's exquisite floral still-lifes are the hallmark of his artistic production. The velvety texture he was able to create added a sensuality and radiance to the subject, evoking the feel and even the fragrance of each petal and leaf. Redon's skill for eliciting such extraordinary sensations in an image set him apart from other artists of the period, and his floral works ultimately came to define his identity as a true champion of Symbolism. This image of a lush bouquet may be counted among of the finest examples of this defining motif of his career.

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 floral arrangements 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 composition reflects Redon's mature penchant for creating lively compositions using contrasting colours and shapes. Although the bouquet is comprised of many kinds of flowers of varying sizes and forms, the overall effect is one of coherence and harmony. Like his contemporary Paul Gauguin, Redon imbued his works with a spiritual quality, declaring: 'He who believes that the aim of art is to reproduce nature will paint nothing lasting: for nature is alive, but she has no intelligence. In a work of art, thought must complement and replace life; otherwise you will only see a physical work that has no soul' (quoted in ibid., p. 152). Such perspective is combined here with a modernist approach to composition, in which the subject of the vase of flowers is set against a neutral background, a stylistic decision largely influenced by Japanese prints. As in the Japanese woodblocks and screens which became popular in Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century, Redon utilised the dynamic of positive and negative spaces as well as patches of bold pigment and strong outlines in order to maximise the impact of his imagery.

Throughout his career Redon collected a variety of vases, jugs and pitchers, likely acquired at markets in Paris, and depicted them repeatedly in several compositions. In rendering them, he often attempted to harmonise the colours of the vase at hand with those of the flowers. Engaging so directly with actual objects arranged in his studio, he transformed his materials into images of spiritual power, in this way bridging the gap between his traditional choice of subject and the inherent mysticism of his earlier 'noir' works.