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Odilon Redon

Prints by Odilon Redon at Fitch-Febvrel Gallery
Art in Review, The New York Times, Friday, November 27, 1981, by John Russell

Nowhere in lithography, and very rarely elsewhere in art, shall we find blacks so sumptuous as those conjured for our amazement by Odilon Redon. Black for Redon was more than a color. It was an incantation, and one that he used to sound the deeps of the unconscious mind.

He did it at exactly the right time. The medium was waiting for someone who would put the stone, the paper and the fat greasy pencil to new uses. The 1880's and early 90's were the heyday of the Symbolist movement, which turned its back on everyday reality the better to release the phantoms that lurk within us. Redon was by nature a solitary worker, but he knew that he had the approval of Stéphane Mallarmé, the foremost poet of the day, and of many others.

Bookish to his very bones, he was never happier than when taking off from the printed word. Flaubert's "Temptation of St. Anthony" served him well in that context, and so did the Revelations of St. John the Divine, along with one or two works of more ephemeral interest. But he also had some wonderfully creepy inventions of his own — eyeballs that floated alone in the sky, demons bizarre beyond our private imagining and human figures strangely mated with elements from botany and geology.

Seen in ones and twos, these prints never fail of their effect. But the Fitch-Febvrel Gallery has assembled more than 50 of Redon's lithographs — many of them in rare or altered states — and they make a most formidable display. Black calls to black across the crowded room and specter to specter. It is a show to cherish.

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