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 genre of still-life 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 serene lyricism of these paintings contrasts with the prevailing melancholy of the earlier Noirs, but Redon’s fundamental Symbolist aesthetic had not altered. He was still trying to depict a space between reality and dream, and flowers, which for him lay ‘at the confluence of two streams, that of representation and that of memory’ presented him with a perfect motif. As the critic Albert Flament, admiring the works of Odilon Redon at the Salon d'Automne in 1905, wrote: ‘M. Odilon Redon is a painter of flowers as they are seen in dreams. They do not flourish under the rays of the sun. Their middays are moonlight, they come from our nightmares... from oriental legends’ (quoted by M.-A. Stevens in "Redon's artistic and critical position", in Odilon Redon, 1840-1916, exh. cat., Chicago, 1994, pp. 296-297).
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