Odilon Redon (1840 – 1916, French)

Odilon Redon and catOdilon Redon (1840 – 1916, French) grew up in a well-to-do family in Bordeaux. The Redon family had ties to New Orleans through his father’s involvement in the slave trade in the 1830’s and briefly resided there. Redon began drawing at an early age and was encouraged to continue after receiving a drawing prize at school.

After fulfilling his service in the Franco-Prussian war from 1870-71, Redon started working in pastel and oils in the 1890’s.

In 1899, his work came to the attention of the Baron Robert de Domecy who commissioned him to produce 17 decorative panels for his Chateau in Burgundy. Today fifteen of these panels are on display at the Musee de Orsay in Paris. Later the Baron also commissioned Redon to complete portraits of the Baron’s family. 

Redon briefly studied painting under Jean-Leon Gerome, renowned for his Orientalist paintings. Redon became a symbolist painter, printmaker and pastellist. His still lifes of flowers and use of colors gained him the admiration of Henri Matisse.

Redon’s painting of his cat Bazon is clearly a refection of peacefulness. We see his orange tabby cat lying at the front of the painting, contentedly sleeping. Bazon blends into a bright cheerful orange background with various plants and flowers. Perhaps a butterfly or a large leaf in the upper right corner looks down on the cat with a smiling face.  

19th C Odilon Redon, Bazon, the Artist's Cat

Bazon, The Artist’s Cat

Redon’s symbolic works are considered the precursor to both Dadaism and Surrealism. Redon was influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism and Japanese art which are reflected in his works, especially those from the early twentieth century. His early works were considered “a synthesis of nightmares and dreams”. Redon explained his art, “My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous realm of the undetermined.”

Study of Cats, Flowers and Woman, 1910-14 Odilon Redon

Study of Cats, Flowers and Woman, 1910-14

In 1903, the Legion of Honor was bestowed upon Redon, and by 1913 he had become quite popular after exhibiting in the United States.

Redon died on July 6, 1916 in Paris.


Young girl with a cat and flowers, Odilon Redon

Young girl with a cat and flowers


Study of a Cat, Odilon Redon

Study of a Cat



Want to know more about the cat in literature, art and history? Then Revered and Reviled is the book for  you. Now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. 

Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats




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