Art Collection Collection Reflection Curatorial Prints and Drawings

Collection Reflection: Associate Curator Nikki Otten on Odilon Redon

Listen as Nikki Otten, associate curator of prints and drawings, discusses Vase of Flowers by Odilon Redon.

Multi-colored flowers in a blue vase
Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916), Vase of Flowers, 1900/16 (detail). Pastel on paper. 35 × 28 in. (88.9 × 71.12 cm). Purchase, Marjorie Tiefenthaler Bequest and partial gift of Louise Uihlein Snell Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation M1996.37. Photo by Larry Sanders

We invite you to join us as each curator focuses on a single work of art, exploring both that object and how the object speaks to the collection as a whole, as well as to the chosen theme in particular.

In this first iteration, we examine the notion of still life as it has been treated in artwork across time.

The last Collection Reflection video featured curator Tanya Paul on Jan van Os’s Flowers in Terra-cotta Vase, a traditional eighteenth-century Dutch flower piece. Nikki Otten selected the work she will discuss today, by Odilon Redon, in response to that piece.

A museum’s collection is, by its very nature, carefully organized, its objects categorized by geographic origin, medium, chronology, and other defining characteristics. However, works of art have many qualities that defy these traditional institutional divisions. Through this series of videos, we are examining these broader elements, seeking commonalities and new ways of connecting the works in the Museum’s collection.

See the videos on the other works in this series here.

Nikki Otten headshot

Nikki Otten is associate curator of prints and drawings. She plans exhibitions and rotations, manages acquisitions, and researches the collection of works on paper from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century.

One reply on “Collection Reflection: Associate Curator Nikki Otten on Odilon Redon”

I really enjoyed your analysis of Odilon Redon’s Flowers in Terra Cotta Vase, and it prompted me to look closer as you described the work. There are a few other features that I noted in the object that are worth describing as well.

One is the hummingbird dipping its beak into the flower to the right of the carnation. The bird is so small that at first I thought it was a large bee – but it’s a small hummingbird with greenish-yellow, blue, and dark colors. The bird’s appearance is particularly noteworthy when comparing this work to the Van Os who also has hidden a small bird in plain sight that requires some time to notice.

The second feature I noticed was the pattern of abstracted flower petals and leaves on the vase itself. It’s possible to make out the shapes of the leaves and they are wilder because of the shape of the vase. There are more leafy shapes on the vase and fewer petals, the opposite of what we see above the vase. There is a repetition of a dark splotch of petal in the vase that is almost identical to the darkest flowers in the bouquet itself which tends to unite the upper and lower parts of the painting. Of particular enchantment to me was the sunflower “coyly” peeking out at the lower left side of the vase. Note the tiny dot of red in the sunflower that is the brightest red in the entire painting.

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