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Painting of body of water surrounded by shoreline with buildings

On the right side of this scene is a beach that continues toward the background. Buildings and boats fill the distance, but the shore in the foreground is broad and empty. A low hill fills the left edge of the painting. Between them, a bright blue body of water curves right and flows toward the background. Larger buildings fill the distant shore on the left. The sky above is bright cerulean with puffy white clouds on the right. This scene is painted in a blurred, fairly un-detailed style. Many objects appear as thick fields of color without defined features.

Gallery Text

Redon first encountered the French region of Brittany when he was a soldier in the Franco-Prussian War, and as he wrote to a critic and friend, “despite the brutal fatigue, the insane marches, I also noticed its old, unforgettable roads, and the memory was so vivid that I returned there.” At the time Redon painted this work, he was already producing the symbolist imagery for which he became famous, privileging subjectivity, fantasy, and allegory over naturalism. Though this scene appears charmingly realistic and peaceful, its emptiness should be considered in the context of the deep melancholy he wrote about in later letters describing his impression of the area. Boats such as those moored on the riverbank at right, for instance, functioned in his later art as symbols of the soul’s final journey.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Odilon Redon, French (Bordeaux, France 1840 - 1916 Paris, France)
Fishing Village, Brittany
Other Titles
Alternate Title: French Fishing Village / Brittany Village
Work Type
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2100, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Centuries of Tradition, Changing Times: Art for an Uncertain Age
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Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
19.4 x 33 cm (7 5/8 x 13 in.)
framed: 33 x 47 x 3.8 cm (13 x 18 1/2 x 1 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.l.: Odilon Redon


Recorded Ownership History
André Derain, Paris [sale, Paris, Galerie Charpentier, March 22, 1955, no. 110]. [R. Abdy], sold; to Philip and Frances Hofer, 1966; Frances L. Hofer, bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1979.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Frances L. Hofer
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Tableaux modernes, dessins, aquarelles, gouaches by Cézanne, Corot, Ingres... [André Derain collection], auct. cat., Galerie Charpentier (Paris, March 22, 1955), no. 110, pl. XXV
  • Edgar Peters Bowron, European Paintings Before 1900 in the Fogg Art Museum: A Summary Catalogue including Paintings in the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 1990), p. 126; repr. as no. 396 (some information transposed with no. 395)
  • Alec Wildenstein, Odilon Redon: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint et dessiné, Wildenstein Institute (Paris, 1992-1998), vol. 3, no. 1855, repr.

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 2100 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

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