Vierge nimbée, 1898

Odilon Redon (1840-1916)

  • Pastel, 44 x 28 cm
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam*

A vague form with a halo stands on a boat with golden cables against a phosphorescent blue background. The dark figure has sometimes been interpreted as the Virgin Mary, ‘Star of the Sea’, patron saint of sailors. Odilon Redon, however, left no evidence to support this interpretation. He stated that he consciously created a mysterious atmosphere in his work ‘through the double and triple meanings of images in images and forms that are coming into being, according to the viewer’s spiritual makeup’.

*Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, purchased with the support of the Vereniging Rembrandt, the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the Vincent van Gogh Foundation.

More information about "Vierge nimbée"

The world of the mind

Although Redon was certainly appreciated by his contemporaries, he fell somewhat outside the mainstream artistic movements. Unlike the impressionists and the realists he was not concerned with objective, day-to-day reality. Redon was fascinated by the world of the mind and the subconscious, using his art to investigate his own associative thought processes. This is why he is generally classified as one of the Symbolists.

Black and white and colour

For many years the pastel was owned by Andries Bonger, brother-in-law to Theo van Gogh, who was charmed by Redon’s oeuvre. Initially Redon mainly produced fantastical, macabre charcoal drawings and lithographs in black and white. During the 1890s, however, he introduced increasing amounts of colour in his work whose subjects became more poetical and naturalist.

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