Flowers in a Black Vase


Odilon Redon ( French, 1840 - 1916 )

c. 1909–1910
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General Description

Odilon Redon's Flowers in a Black Vase challenges in many ways the conventional still life. The vase at the right is defined by an elegant curve that establishes its profile amid the cascading yellow, blue, and white flowers which flow across the surface of the paper. The work depicts no interior; there is, for instance, no trace of a tabletop. Rather, an amorphous and luminescent environment suggests simultaneously still life and landscape, or perhaps more accurately—because of the soft velvety surface—a dreamscape.

This pastel is paradigmatic of Redon's discovery of color in the 1890s. His previous works were all black: charcoals, chalk drawings, or lithographic compositions, often exploring themes from Wagner, Poe, and Flaubert, and creating mysterious and evocative fantasies. Redon's still life reflects the symbolist aesthetic of the late 19th century in its otherworldly quality and in the way in which color becomes an expressive element independent of form, emulating the non-descriptiveness of music and evoking correspondences between color and smell.

Adapted from

Dorothy Kosinski, "Flowers in a Black Vase", in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection,_ _ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 116.

Web Resources

  • Musée d'Orsay, Paris
    Learn more about Odilon Redon and his work at the Abbaye de Fontfroide from the Musee d'Orsay.

  • The National Gallery, London
    Check out another of Redon's flower still lifes.

  • Vimeo
    Watch this video of Dr. Ted Gott presenting a paper comparing Odilon Redon to English poet and artist William Blake.