Like most Cyclops in mythology, Polyphemus was often villainized as a savage creature. However Redon has taken this myth and given Polyphemus a makeover. Here, he is shown as a non-threatening passive creature, softly gazing with a large eye and hiding from Galatea behind the rocky terrain. Redon's departure from the normal depiction of Polyphemus was influenced by his dream-like style and ambivalence toward the artistic norm.
Odilon Redon was a French symbolist painter, printmaker, draughtsman and pastellist. He was a contemporary of Monet and Renoir but never an adherent of Impressionism. He was viewed as an outsider and his art was not widely accepted during his life. Drawing deeply from his imagination, Redon explains, "My father often used to say to me: 'Look at those clouds, can you see as I can, the changing shapes in them?' And then he would show me strange beings, fantastic and marvelous visions, in the changing sky." So much of what Redon would create was conjured from his imagination. He described his style as follows: "My originality consists in bringing to life, in a human way, improbable beings and making them live according to the laws and probability, by putting- as far as possible- the logic of the visible at the service of the invisible."
This fabulous theme, similar to Hieronymus Bosch and the writer Edgar Allan Poe, was refreshing for the period and caught the eye of Andries Bonger. Bonger would become Redon's primary collector and over time his intimate friend. It was through this relationship that Redon gained his good standing in the art community.