Research point: Odilon Redon

Project 2 Basic shapes and fundamental form

Research point

When looking at an artists work, I am never sure where to start – or even what to focus on! This ‘Research point’ in the course handbook involved the following:

Look carefully at the image below. Note the artist’s expressive use of tone – blocks of dark charcoal in sharp contrast to expanses of light, and then the smaller details, lines and spots that pull the image together as an ambient scene. Try to find further work by the artist and discuss the atmospheric potential of tone in your log


Fig. 1. Odilon Redon, Two Trees, c. 1875 (charcoal on paper)

I didn’t really know where to start with this, so I took a look at some of the resources available from the OCA, specifically a handout on Looking at artists, which suggests the following process:

  • describe
  • relate
  • analyse
  • interpret
  • evaluate

I am going to work through this list while looking at Two Trees. To try to get a more realistic view of it, I used a large computer screen in my office and zoomed in to the drawing, so that its dimensions were close to that in life (63.5 x 49.5cm).


  • The focus is on two large trees.
  • Left tree is crooked, and is leaning towards the tree on the right.


  • I find that my focus keeps shifting towards the dark triangular shadow in the centre of the artwork.
  • Has a very gloomy, yet natural feel to it.


  • My focus drifts from light to dark, and it took me quite some time before my eyes started focusing on some of the details in the midtones.
  • The lines in this drawing are very natural – they give height to the trees through the use of vertical lines, and a sense of stability to the ground through the horizental shading.
  • At first glance, the contrast between light and dark tones appears to be very high – they shadows are very deep and dark, and the highlights stand out against these.
  • The artwork is created with charcoal on golden/sepia toned paper, and the strokes are very visible in places, yet also blended in others.


  • Created around 1875, this was a drawing that was part of what is known as Redon’s noirs.
  • Around the time this was created, the artist would have been moving to Paris – prior to this, he was drafted for the 1870-71 Franco-Prussion War, which would have no doubt had an impact on his work.


  • Symbolist.
  • Natural depiction, of forests and trees.
  • Looking at it, I find the depths depicted in between the trees fascinating, and it makes me think of the mind, and some of the deeper, darker thoughts that are lurking…or I could be reading too much into it!


After looking at the drawing, I then printed the image out and made some notes in my sketchbook – I then attempted to recreate the drawing with a completely different medium (and on a much smaller scale), which I positioned next to the original for comparison.

I used a black pen for my drawing, and looking at the two together, I can see why the artist chose charcoal as the medium – the tones are lot more forgiving! The use of coloured paper also helps with this, the white paper is too much of a harsh contrast for this subject.

References / Illustrations

Figure 1. Redon, O., (c.1875) Two Trees. At: (accessed on 21/02/2017)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s