The evocative, symbolic art of Odilon Redon drew its inspiration from the internal world of his imagination. For years this student of Rodolphe Bresdin worked only in black and white, producing powerful and haunting charcoal drawings, lithographs, and etchings. Just as these black works, or “ Noirs,” began to receive critical and public acclaim in the 1890s, Redon discovered the marvels of color through the use of pastel. His immersion in color and this new technique brought about a change in the artist’s approach to his subject matter as well. “Flower Clouds” is one of a number of pastels executed around 1905 that are dominated by spiritual overtones. Here a sailboat bears two figures, perhapes two saintly women, on a timeless journey through a fantastic, phosphorescent sea and sky. The dreamlike skiff may reflect Redon’s internal voyage, replacing the nocturnal turmoil of the earlier “Noirs” with a more hopeful vision. The luminous intensity of the pastels echoes the ardent spirituality of the theme.


  • Title: Flower Clouds
  • Creator: Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916)
  • Date Created: About 1903
  • Physical Dimensions: 445 × 542 mm
  • Type: Drawing and Watercolor
  • External Link: The Art Institute of Chicago
  • Media: Pastel, with touches of stumping, incising, and brushwork, on blue-gray wove paper with multicolored fibers altered to tan, perimeter mounted to cardboard
  • Credit Line: The Art Institute of Chicago, through prior bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson Collection, 1990.165
  • Artist: Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916)

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