“One must respect black, nothing prostitutes it. It does not please the eye and it awakens no sensuality. It is the agent of the mind far more than the most beautiful color to the palette or prism.” Odilon Redon
Smiling spiders, cyclopes, macabre animals and plants with human heads – the creatures in Odilon Redon’s noirs (“black things”, Redon’s own affectionate term for his charcoal drawings and lithographs), are equally unsettling and fascinating. This fusion of natural and fantastic belongs to the Symbolism movement where the images are derived from artist’s dreams and fantasies, his visits to the Natural History Museum, reflections on Darwin’s evolutionary theories and on the early stages of psychiatry and dream research, and finally, his fascination with the invisible world of science that can only be discerned through the microscope.
A late starter, Redon, after numerous setbacks and false starts, gradually...