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Odilon Redon, Armand Clavaud, and Benedict Spinoza: Nature as God

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The enigma of Odilon Redon's art and his lifelong disinterest in discussing it directly have caused his critics and admirers to range widely in their investigations across the cultural, philosophical, and mystical landscape of his time and habitats: fin de siècle France in Paris and his family home and vineyard at Peyrelebade outside Bordeaux. This essay looks closely at two lesser known aspects of his childhood and adolescence: his mystical devotion to the rituals of the Catholic faith and, contradictorily, his close friendship with an older man, the polymath Bordelais botanist, Armand Clavaud. The artist's and the scientist's shared devotion for Nature in its spiritual richness evident in their writing, their intense observation, their perceptive recording, and their shared interest in the pantheistic philosophy of Spinoza with respect to Nature and to God, offer insights into Redon's mind and art that have not been considered together before and which seem to the author to be elemental if one is to understand its power and content.


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