Bouquet de fleurs dans un vase bleu

Odilon Redon
Bouquet de fleurs dans un vase bleu
Oil on canvas
55.2 x 46. cm
Signed Odilon Redon lower left
Gustave Fayet, Béziers
D’Andoque de Sérièges Collection, France
Paul Bacou, Paris
Zélicourt Collection, France (acquired circa 1970)
Wildenstein & Co., Paris & New York
Private Collection (acquired circa 1987)
Sale: Christie’s, New York, 18th November 1998, lot 19
Private Collection , acquired at the above sale (sale: Christie’s, New York, 5th May 2005, lot 249)
Private Collection , acquired at the above sale
VKS Art, purchased at Sotheby’s London, February 4, 2009, lot 125
Alec Wildenstein, Odilon Redon, Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint et dessiné: Fleurs et paysages, Paris, 1996, vol. III, no. 1512, illustrated p. 104
Exhibitions Tokyo, Wildenstein & Co., Masterpieces of French Painting, 1986, illustrated in the catalogue

“I have in my mind’s eye as one of the good things that I have painted, this vase of flowers, which has remained a vision for me… I do not know of anything that has given me more pleasure than such an appreciation of simple flowers in their vase breathing air.” [1]

Odilon Redon

Earlier in his career, Odilon Redon was devoted to the Symbolist movement and had achieved a considerable reputation for his drawings of supernatural subjects, which he called his “noirs”.
Around the turn of the century, after working almost exclusively in black and white for more than two decades, the artist turned to the genre of the floral still-life, which e composed first in pastel and later in oils. These works were radiant with colour and when they were first exhibited at Galerie Durand-Ruel in the spring of 1906, they were received with great enthusiasm. Redon’s exquisite flower pieces revealed his extraordinary gift as a colorist, and they appealed to a much wider audience than his dark Symbolist compositions. Art critic Richard Hobbs noted: ‘These fragile scented beings, admirable prodigies of light… 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.[2] 

In the present painting poppies, small sunflowers, white lisianthus, ears of oat, and other species, are informally gathered in a baluster-shaped blue jug. Redon sets the bouquet against a neutral, undefined background, thus heightening its impact. This compositional tool reflects the influence of Asian art, particularly Japanese woodblock prints and screens, which the artist admired and often used as a source for inspiration. The vase in the present painting has the shape of a Bartmann jug, decorated with the face of a bearded man on the neck and a floral medallion of the body of the vessel. Bartmann jugs were originally produced in stoneware in the area around Cologne during the 16th and 17th centuries. This particular one closely resembles a blue- and-white specimen that was produced by the Royal Prussian Porcelain Manufacturer KPM in the mid-1800s.

Bartmann Jug by KPM Berlin

Dated 1849-1870

H 38.1 cm

The same jug, which was probably the artist’s own, appears in another work by Redon, now in possession of the Tate Gallery in London, depicting a woman’s head and shoulders in profile facing a vase with a bouquet of flowers.  

Odilon Redon

Profile de femme avec vase de fleurs

Oil on canvas

65.5 × 50.5 cm

Tate Gallery, London , UK

The first owner of Bouquet de fleurs dans un vase bleu was the southern French collector Gustave Fayet (1865-1925), who was an accomplished artist himself. His art collection included many Impressionist works, but he especially favoured Odilon Redon and Paul Gauguin. From Redon he commissioned portraits of his wife and daughters and in 1910-11 a series of spectacular monumental murals for the library at Fontfroide Abbey near Narbonne, where Fayet resided.

Odilon Redon, Day, one of two murals at the Library of Fontfroide Abbey, 1910-12, commissioned by Gustave Fayet.

[1] Odilon Redon quoted in: Odilon Redon: Prince of Dreams, exh. cat., The Art Institute of Chicago, 1994, p. 294

[2] Richard Hobbs, Odilon Redon, London, 1977, p. 139