The Drawings of Victor Hugo: The Intimacy of Genius

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The Drawings of Victor Hugo: The Intimacy of Genius
Victor Hugo, the 19th-century French Romantic, was an influential writer and political activist, famous for his novels Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Nevertheless, Victor Hugo isn’t widely known for the 4,000 drawings he made during his lifetime, 3,000 of which still exist today. Hugo believed in the representing the “Grotesque:” a theme fashionable with the Romantic school of thought prevalent in the 1830s. The rebellious abandon of Romanticism was a marked transformation from the rationality stemming from the French Revolution. Yearning for simpler times, the Romantics looked back for primitive ideologies and forgotten origins, and reveled in the grotesque. Victor Hugo, Bridge (C) Wikimedia, Public Domain Victor Hugo’s drawings were haunted by the idea of tumbledown castles and ruins. As witnessed in his description of Notre-Dame de Paris, Hugo took delight in crumbling ceilings, dank stone, and broken windows. A later drawing trip along the Rhine would attest to this. From Aachen to Frankfurt, Hugo sketched the history of the river through the ruins of its banks. Victor Hugo, Castle on a Hill, 1847. (C) Wikimedia, Public Domain However, Victor Hugo produced most of his drawings while in exile from France, bolting first to the Channel island of Jersey and then to Guernsey, where he and his family would live from 1855 to 1870. Though once a member of the French Legislative Assembly, Hugo became more left leaning as Napoleon III became more authoritarian; Hugo, the dissident, fled France in 1851. Victor Hugo painting (C) Flashback.com/ Public Domain
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Lead photo credit : Victor Hugo, Le roi des auxcriniers. (C) Wikipedia, Public Domain

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.