1840 - 1916
Two Young Girls with Flowers
Three artists of the 1890s went so far as to develop what could be called a floral aesthetic: Vuillard, the late Monet and Odilon Redon. No Symbolist did more to transform and revitalize flower painting than Redon. In hundreds of floral still-lives, Redon removed the flower from the mundane settings of the Pre-Raphaelites and of academic genre painters like Tissot to an indeterminate dream space of glowing “medieval” color and weightless forms.
More importantly, Redon developed a floral aesthetic for all manner of subjects after 1890. Along with the dreamy, celestial woman, the innocent child, and the mystical sea voyage, the flower became a central metaphor in Redon’s Symbolist floral universe: loosely-brushed, open-ended, spatially vast, ethereal, and highly refined. Combined with the reflective child and especially the dreaming young woman, often abstracted as a floating head with closed eyes, Redon’s floral universe appears to the real viewer like the floral dream conjured up by his detached heads.
Excerpted from “Gardens and Flowers in Art from 1700 to 1940: From the Courtly Love Garden to the Inner Flower of the Modern Self” by Robert Baldwin