Simultaneous Repellent and Appealing Feeling: the combination of the creepy crawler with the twisted humanoid smile turns the creature, that would otherwise look only goofy and fuzzy, into something slightly disturbing and unsettling.
Spider as a Symbol: The spider is considered to be an archetype of femininity, according to Freud. It is also associated with the cycle of life, to the acts of creation/beginning and death/end – cycle of life. It’s seen as a creative force through its weaving. Beyond all this, the spider is intrinsically connected with the dark spectrum of life, as it deceives, traps and controls its prey.
Hybrid Creature: The humanization of the spider, with teeth and nose, conveys a definite wickedness to the little demon. But those are not the only humanoid features. The fact the spider possesses ten legs relates to ten human fingers.
The Colour Black: the artist takes advantage of this sterile colour of power and authority, a colour that demands respect, according to his words, to intensify the macabre quality of the composition. This colour is often linked to witchcraft, black magic, violence, darkness and, obviously, evil. The black paint opposes to the white paper, reinforcing its negative role, not only in compositional terms, but also in symbolic terms.
Twisted Smile: The wicked smile represents the perverted quality of evil.
The composition is very simplistic, showing only two planes – the foreground, where the spider is, and the background – the blank wall. It also follows the rule of thirds, placing the head of the spider in the middle third and aligning the edge (where the wall meets the floor) with the lower horizontal third. The grid of the tiled floor also suggests some level of perspective, conveying depth to a rather simplistic composition.
Tension Line: A diagonal line divides the image from the top right to the bottom left, separating the bottom part of the composition (the lighter and clear portion), from the one above (darker, where the spider spreads its legs).
Shape: The image is composed of very simple shapes – circles of the spider’s head and eyes, and rectangles in perspective on the floor.
Line and Surface: The different textures are suggested by the differing line treatment, for example the tile floor is defined by a thin line, in the back wall the lines are scratched in a crisscross pattern, on the edge of the spider head, each hair is softly employed, and in the dark furry head, the block of lines creates a blurred and soft surface.
Colour: The artist only used black in the composition, the variations of tonality is exclusively given by the line work, which means it’s not diluted. The lightest value in the composition is the paper itself.
Rhythm: The creation of patterns and textures on the wall, for example, and the repetition of elements like the spider’s leg create a lightly rhythmic composition.
Light: The composition is, overall, very light. But the big black spider on the foreground contrasts heavily with the background, especially on the right. The left side of the composition, where the spider stands, turns slightly darker, like a shadow being cast by it, through the application of intertwined lines.
Drawing and Lithography: Redon worked closely with charcoal drawings and lithographs in black, for the speed of the process, capturing the artist’s vision in a quicker manner, and for its reproducibility into lithograph versions, which retain the same sketchiness and immediacy of the charcoal drawings. In this specific case, the print was based on a charcoal drawing, but the lithograph version makes for a deeper intensity of the black colour.
Imagination: Redon relied on his imagination and searched for inspiration in his dreams. This source of inspiration proved to be crucial in his creative process, giving life to his own creatures.
Use of the Colour Black: The artist chose to work only with black in these compositions. For Redon, the black was the only colour that imposed respect, and devoid of any sensual qualities, as he wanted his bizarre creatures to be just that, devoid of any additional content.
Creation of Hybrid Monsters: The artist combined the natural with the fantastical in order to explore his imagination (fantasies and dreams). These bizarre looking hybrids of humans and either animals or plants, were a result of scientific observations in the Paris Natural History Museum, of the artist’s fascination for the microscopic world of living things, of reflections on the theory of evolution of Darwin, and of Redon’s prolific imagination.
Redon’s Noirs: The drawings and lithographs in black of Redon’s creatures (or “black things”), paved the path to surrealism. The wicked and twisted monsters, like this smiling spider, are the children of evil and the macabre.
Precursor of Surrealism: These symbolic works that merged the natural and the fantastic, resulting in bizarre ‘monsters’, paved the grounds for Surrealists, as they often quoted his works in some way.