Odilon Redon’s The Art of Silence

Art Feature originally published at Spirituality & Practice

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In these noisy times, it is hard to find oases of silence. Psychotherapist Gunilla Norris observes: “Silence is something like an endangered species.” In places of quiet, we can meditate and wait for messages from Spirit.

“My drawings inspire, and are not defined. They place us, as does music, on the ambiguous realm of the undetermined,” wrote Odilon Redon (1840-1916), a pioneer of Symbolist art linked to the poetry of Baudelaire and Edgar Allen Poe and to the music of Claude Debussy. After a reflective and solitary childhood, he turned to art and created visionary charcoal drawings. His favorite color was black:

“Black is the most essential color . . . [it] should be respected. Nothing prostitutes it. It does not please the eye and does not awaken sensuality. It is the agent of the spirit much more than the splendid color of the palette or of the prism.”

During his lifetime, Redon made some 30 etchings and 170 lithographs. In his old age, he turned to paintings suffused with color and joy.

This fetching 1911 painting, Silence, shows Harpocrates, the ancient Greek god of silence and secrecy, expressing a soul gesture which is illustrative of the need to hold in our energy in order to hear our inner voice. The other hand touches an earlobe in a gesture that suggests deep listening.

Here is a visual portrait of the mystic preparing to dive into silence. Ultimately the great mystery of the Divine transcends reason or intellect. Redon viewed his creations from this vantage point: “I have placed a little door opening on to the mysterious.”

As you contemplate this picture – and some of Redon’s others in the video gallery below – prepare to allow your eyes to turn inward as your body and soul to become fully immersed in the silence.

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