I first heard of Rodolphe Bresdin (1822-1885) in connection with the life and work of Odilon Redon: the former was a friend and teacher to the latter, and exercised a formative influence on his artistic outlook.
From Bresdin, Redon learned both to etch and to make lithographs. Stylistically, Bresdin’s intricate mazes of detailed imagery offered little influence to the future course of Redon’s art, but Bresdin’s insistence upon exploration of the artist’s personal visions and dreams takes us firmly to the world of Redon. More than anything, Bresdin gave Redon the courage to follow his own feelings - source here.
I had only ever seen a couple of Bresdin’s prints and so was delighted to find an on-line exhibition devoted to his work at the Bibliothèque National de France’s website. This tied in with a pictures-on-walls show staged at the library in the summer of 2000, & so is hardly news, but I was nevertheless grateful for the chance to spend an hour or two browsing around it the other day.
Bresdin worked exclusively in the monochrome media of drawings, etchings, and lithographs. His compositions are oftenest crowded and intricate, presenting us with thickly overgrown forests, for example, or busy battle scenes, or cluttered interiors. His etchings were likened to Dürer’s but were more directly inspired, we are told, by the work of Rembrandt, and Callot.
There are a few very brief biographical notes on Bresdin out there, which collectively present an intruguing but sketchy composite portrait of an evidently fascinating man: ‘a true Bohemian, Bresdin for years lived alone in a forest hut, with his copper plates and a pet rabbit’; he dressed outlandishly, and his habits were bizarre, for example ‘he used to take walks with a white rabbit on a lead’; He was greatly admired by Beaudelaire, Mallarmé and Courbet; Despite ‘enormous success’ he ’remained poor all his life’; He lived in Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse, and spent some years in Québec before returning to settle in Sèvres; He fathered seven children…
Click on the cropped images above to see them full-frame: alas, whilst Bresdin’s work invites microscopic scrutiny, these images are on the small side.
Here are a few more of Bresdin’s graphic works. Above are two peasant interiors, and below, two images of the Holy Family almost lost amidst implausibly luxuriant vegetation. Again, click on the details to see the images in full.