Vase of Flowers is typical of a group of flower still-life paintings Redon made in the late 1860s, although he would continue to paint vases of flowers throughout his life. Unusual in this painting is the container that holds the poppies and marguerites, favorite flower choices for Redon. The container may possibly be a coconut shell or perhaps it is some kind of irregular ceramic or sack. Seen against the uniform mauve of the background, table, and container, the yellow and red poppy blossoms radiate almost like stained glass. Indeed, Redon wrote in his journal that isolating an object renders its brilliance and intensity, allowing it to grow and impose itself.
Odilon Redon lived in Paris after 1870, where he turned increasingly to painting and pastel. During the 1890s and under the influence of various French Post-Impressionists such as Bonnard, his art incorporated brilliant colors and his subjects often turned to mythological scenes that typically evinced a romantic, dreamlike quality.
The American author, Edith Wharton, previously owned this painting during the years she lived in France. The Blisses socialized with Wharton during their years in Paris, and Mildred Bliss and Wharton had worked closely together to provision ambulances and children’s hospitals during World War I. Beatrix Jones Farrand, Wharton’s niece and the principal landscape designer at Dumbarton Oaks, acquired Vase of Flowers and a second Redon flower study from her aunt’s estate. She gave Vase of Flowers to Dumbarton Oaks in 1947.
Bühl, Gudrun, editor. Dumbarton Oaks, The Collections. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (distributed by Harvard University Press), 2008, 358f, ill.
Collection of Edith Wharton, France.
Collection of Beatrix Farrand, Bar Harbor, ME.
Gift of Beatrix Farrand to Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC, ca. 1947.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, DC.