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From a middle-class family in Bordeaux, Odilon Redon was introduced to art young by a Romantic landscape artist, Stanislas Gorin. Gorin introduced him to Corot, Delacroix and Moreau. In 1861, he started to study architecture and sculpture in Paris. A meeting with botanist Clavaud in 1862 opened him up to the world of plants, about which he became passionate. Unsure as to his vocation, in 1864 Redon entered the studio of the Academic painter Gérôme. This experience, difficult for a young man who was naturally inclined to observation after nature and working from his imagination, was happily mitigated by his meeting with the engraver Bresdin. In Bresdin, he discovered a liberated art, both introspective and visionary. And so it was in etching that Redon started his career and first exhibited at the Salon of 1867 in the engraving section. His personality asserted itself in the 1870s: he rejected color in his charcoal sketches and his lithographs - his preferred means of exploring his personal universe of fantasy.
In a period when naturalism and rationalism were in vogue, Redon had to wait until the 1880s to achieve recognition from his peers. Thereafter he was invited to take part in many exhibitions, both Impressionist and Expressionist, and contributed to the creation of the Salon des Indépendants. In 1890, the artist 'married’ color, to use his own metaphor, and turned to pastels, watercolors and oil-paints to interpret, in his own mysterious and irrational way, the great myths, as well as portraits and still-lives.
A prolific illustrator of the writing of Mallarmé, Baudelaire and Flaubert, he was equally at home with decorative work. A fervent defender of intimate and spiritual art, Redon did not officially belong to any contemporary movements. Numerous painters – Gauguin, the Nabis, writers – Huysmans, Gide, Valery, and musicians – Debussy, admired and remained friends with Redon throughout his career. After his death, the Surrealists found, in his ''docile submission to the coming of the unconscious'', a state of mind that heralded their own research.
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