3/29/11

Odilon Redon, Frontispiece from Iwan Gilkin's Les Ténèbres (Darkness)


The Art Institute of Chicago

Date: 1892
Technique: Lithograph in black on ivory China paper laid down on ivory wove paper, 199 x 122 mm

Les Ténèbres was a volume of poetry by the Belgian, Iwan Gilkin. The poet was more than happy with Redon's interpretation and wrote to the artist:

'This marvellous female demon, who bears with such gentle melancholy, at the fall of night, the baleful cauldron in which bubble the poisons of darkness. I could not imagine a more splendid illustration of the dark dreams which I strove to capture in my verse.'

This frontispiece appeared in an edition of 140 copies of the book printed on china paper (as it is here) and in a de luxe edition of ten printed on Japan paper (at twice the price: 30 francs). Redon rose to great popularity amongst the Belgian Symbolists and began exhibiting at their Salons in 1886. For this frontispiece he took inspiration from the poem, Thought, which begins:

The black angel handed me the cup of dark onyx,
Where a cerebral liquid bubbled sinisterly,
I drank down into the tomb of my mouth,
O, the charm of terror, the splendour of despair!

Source 1
Source 2

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