Captive Pegasus (Pégase captif)
by Odilon Redon
35.7-Redon_Pegasus-MOMA-ART193056
Odilon Redon (French, 1840–1916), Captive Pegasus (Pégase captif), 1889 (published 1891). Lithograph on chine appliqué, 13⅜ × 11⅝ in. (34 × 23.5 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Lillie P. Bliss Collection

Odilon Redon
Captive Pegasus (aka Pégase Captif), 1889, released in an announced edition of 100 in 1891
Lithograph on chine appliqué, sheet 20 x 15 15/16 in. (50.8 x 40.1 cm)
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Lillie P. Bliss Collection

The subject
In Greek mythology, the winged horse Pegasus was born of Poseidon and Medusa after her decapitation. While drinking from the fountain Peirene, Pegasus was captured by the brave hero Bellerophon, who rode him into battle against the Chimera. After slaying the monster with the assistance of Pegasus, Bellerophon wanted to ascend Mount Olympus to join the gods. Zeus, angered at the man’s presumption, caused Pegasus to throw him off. Freed from captivity, Pegasus made his way to the heavens, where Zeus transformed him into a constellation.

The artist’s interpretation
By the nineteenth century, Pegasus was associated with liberated creativity and poetic inspiration, themes that held strong appeal for Redon. Indeed, the Pegasus figured prominently in Redon’s iconographic repertoire for several years, appearing in numerous drawings, paintings, and prints, sometimes with Bellerophon and sometimes without.

The style
Executed in 1889, this lithograph recalls Redon’s noirs, the evocative charcoal drawings he began creating in the 1870s.[1] Employing what the artist termed the “oily black liquid of lithography” to evoke an obscure, shadowy world, this work illustrates Redon’s belief in the critical role of materials in making meaning. [2]

At the Armory Show
Redon was one of just fifteen European printmakers whose works were exhibited at the Armory Show, and the only one whose prints received special mention in the press. His prints were also popular with the public—twenty of them were sold from the Armory Show. Captive Pegasus was purchased for $25 by the collector Lillie P. Bliss.

[1] Redon executed Captive Pegasus in 1889 and announced an edition of one hundred impressions in 1891. See Jodi Hauptman, Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2005), 28. Of the edition of 100 impressions that was announced, only twenty-five first state and fifty second and final state were produced. Odilon Redon: Prince du Rêve, 1840-1916, Rodolphe Rapetti, ed., 220.

[2] Quoted in Hauptman, 28.

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