Odilon Redon

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Odilon Redon
Centaur Reading
Charcoal on light brown paper, with scratching, some stumping and eraser work, sprayed with fixative, on light brown paper.
18 7/8 x 15 7/8 inches (479 x 403 mm)
Thaw Collection.

Redon was attracted to hybrid creatures such as centaurs, mythical beasts with a horse's body and a man's torso. Here, he depicts the centaur Chiron, tutor of Aesculapius and Achilles, standing in a meadow with a large tome open before him. Redon used erasing throughout the sheet to introduce highlights and to create the delicate pale flowers at the centaur's feet. While we see the creature's body and torso in three-quarters-view, his face is turned away from us and remains obscured. Unlike most centaurs whose animal nature causes them to behave in savage ways, Chiron was an exception, hailed for his wisdom and learning. This atypical example of the learned beast and the unexpected depiction of a centaur with a book must have appealed to Redon's sense of the unlikely. As Douglas Druick and Peter Zegers have shown, Redon had long been compelled by two poems about Chiron, Maurice de Guérin's "Le Centaure" (1835) and Leconte de Lisle's poem "Khiron" (1852), romantic verses evoking the truth and beauty their author imagined was epitomized by ancient Greece.


Signed at lower right in charcoal, "ODILON REDON"

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Rosenberg, ca. 1958; possibly the New Gallery, New York; K. Nakagawa, Japan, ca. 1969; possibly Jane Wade, La Jolla, California, ca. 1978; K. Nakagawa, Japan; a private family collection; sale, Christie's, New York, 7 November 2002, lot 115; from which acquired by Eugene V. (1927-2018) and Clare E. (1924-2018) Thaw, New York.
Associated names: 

Thaw, Eugene Victor, former owner.
Thaw, Clare, former owner.


The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, NY, "Drawn to Greatness: Master Drawings from the Thaw Collection", 2017. Exh. cat., no. 311, repr.
The Thaw collection of master drawings : acquisitions since 2002. New York : Morgan Library & Museum, 2009, no. 45, repr.
Wildenstein, Alec., Redon, Odilon, Lacau St. Guily, Agnès, and Decroocq, Marie-Christine. Odilon Redon, Catalogue Raisonné De L'oeuvre Peìnt Et Dessiné / Alec Wildenstein ; Texte Et Recherches, Agnès Lacau St. Guily ; Documentation, Marie-Christine Decroocq, Sylvie Crussard, Emilie Offenstadt. Paris: Wildenstein Institute : Diffusion La Bibliothèque Des Arts, 1992-98, vol. 2, no. 1234, repr.

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