A one-eyed giant is hiding behind a rocky mountain and a lady is lying naked on a mountain slope with flowers blossoming. This striking painting is a well-known piece by French symbolist painter Odilon Redon in his later years. What’s most noticeable is the giant’s bizarrely big eye. It looks threatening and anxious at the same time. What happened to the giant?
Redon lived among impressionist painters but he wanted to symbolically depict the inner world of a painter, such as dreams or subconsciousness, rather than painting the moment of everyday life like them. He often painted the dreamy world of fairies, monsters, or imaginary beings. The painting is about the story of Cyclopes in Greek mythology.
The Cyclopes is a one-eyed giant tribe in “Odyssey” written by Homer. Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon, was a leader of the Cyclopes. He was an outlaw who was ignorant and arrogant and lacked awe for gods. However, his heart was warmer than anybody else’s. Polyphemus is peeking at Galatea, a sea-nymph, behind a high mountain. The beautiful nymph is sleeping naked on a mountain slope covered with flowers. Polyphemus who did not fear anything in the world is hiding behind a rocky mountain as if he was shy in front of a woman he loved. The problem was that the one who Galatea loved was a beautiful 16-year-old named Acis, not Polyphemus. With his ferociousness, Polyphemus killed Acis in rage with a rock after witnessing Polyphemus and Acis being together.
Did the one-eyed giant win over love after getting rid of the enemy? Not at all. Everything returns like a boomerang. He went blind while trying to eat Odysseus and his people who were returning home after a win in the Trojan War. Redon painted an eye as the symbol of a being able to control the world, as well as an inner world. The giant had an eye bigger than anybody else’s but lost it due to his arrogance.