Drawings of Victor Hugo

Victor HugoVictor Hugo

The great romantic painter, Delacroix, wrote to Victor Hugo that, had he decided to become a painter instead of a writer, he would have outshone the artists of their century.
Many of Hugo's paintings have survived. One recognizes in them accomplished draughtsmanship, boldness of execution and a sense of powerful creativity. Today his artwork still has the power to astonish us by the skill, the strong composition, and often by theatrical effects of light and shade which seem to have been achieved by the poet-draughtsman under a direct spell of inspiration.
Victor Hugo drew incessantly. He also studied the characteristics of his chosen materials or media under all possible angles. He rose above contemporary conventions and did not hesitate to elaborate on accidental effects if they satisfied his aesthetic sense. The result sometimes looked more like a 20th century abstract than a simple doodle. —Jersey Heritage Trust

"Once paper, pen-and-ink-well have been brought to the table, Victor Hugo sits down and without making a preliminary sketch, without any apparent preconception, sets about drawing with an extraordinarily sure hand not the landscape as a whole but any old detail. He will begin his forest with the branch of a tree, his town with a gable, his gable with a weathervane, and little by little, the entire composition will emerge from the blank paper with the precision and clarity of a photographic negative subjected to the chemical preparation that brings out the picture. That done, the draftsman will ask for a cup and will finish off his landscape with a light shower of black coffee. The result is a unexpected and powerful drawing that is often strange, always personal, and recalls the etchings of Rembrandt and Piranesi." —Charles Hugo

Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"Pêcherie at night", Painted in Jersey
Indian ink, brown ink, washes, charcoal and a little blue ink, 220mmx170mm.
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Paysage
Brown ink spread on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Abstract Composition
Sepia/brown ink wash on vellum paper 5x9 in
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Taches with fingerprints, 1864-65
Brown ink and wash spread with fingers on cream paper 10x7 in.
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"Justicia", 1858
Sepia, wash and indian ink, 53 x 35 cm, Hauteville House Germany
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"The King of the Auxcriniers", c. 1864
Pen and wash, 19 x 25 cm, Bibliotheque Nationale Paris
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Voilures
Taches of brown ink, graphite pencil
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Pattern Composition
Stencil with washes, brush and pen on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"Silhouette fantastique", ca. 1854
Charcoal, stencil painted over with ink wash
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Composition with taches ca. 1875
Wash of bluish ink on creme-laid paper, folded in two 17x21 in. (443 x 548 mm)
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
Victor Hugo - The Mouth of Darkness Victor Hugo
"The Mouth of Darkness", c. 1855-6
Wash, 18 x 12 cm, Private Collection, Paris
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"Heraldic eagle" (Study of an eagle for a coat of arms), painted in Jersey ca. 1855.
Silhouette of fine cut-out marked out with soft charcoal. Penned and painted in brown and blue ink with some lace print worked into the body of the bird.
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"Old House" ca.1856
Ink wash on paper cut-out, mounted on a support
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"Le Gai Château" Flandres ca.1847
Ink wash on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Mushroom, ca. 1850
Ink wash on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Calling Card, 1855
Ink wash on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"The Snake", c. 1866
Pen, Sepia and gouache, 31 x 47 cm, Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris
Victor Hugo - The Wave or My Destiny - 1857 Victor Hugo
"The Wave" or "My Destiny", 1857
Pen, wash and gouache, 17 x 26 cm, Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Octopus with the initials V. H., ca. 1866
Ink wash on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Lace impression, ca. 1855
Ink wash on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
(recto) Lace impression, spectral form ca.1855
Pen and ink wash on blue paper
Victor Hugo, Lace and Ghosts, c. 1855-6 Victor Hugo
"Lace and Ghosts", c. 1855-6
Wash (lace imprint) and ink, 6.5 x 6 cm, Maison de Victor Hugo Paris
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"The Casquets" rocks between Jersey and Guernesey
Sepia ink and watercolor wash on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"Setting sun", painted in Jersey 1852-1855.
Ink wash on paper
Victor Hugo, Planet, c. 1866 Victor Hugo
"Planet", c. 1866
Pen and wash, 29 x 21 cm, Bibliotheque Nationale Paris
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Torquemada
Ink wash on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Town with tumbledown bridge, 1847
Ink wash on paper
Victor Hugo - The Dead City Victor Hugo
"The Dead City", c. 1850
Ink, wash, charcoal (scraper), 42 x 64 cm, Lucien Scheler Collection, Paris
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
untitled drawing
Pen and sepia ink wash and white gouache on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
untitled drawing
Pen and sepia ink wash and white gouache on paper
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"The Upper Rhine", painted in Jersey, January 1st, 1855
Pen and brown ink wash, blue and sienna watercolour, highlights of white gouache; painted and blurred with feather and fingerprints on beige paper. Framed with a thin band of gilt paper and mounted on vellum. (60mmx190mm)
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
Ruined Aqueduct ca. 1850
Pen, brown-ink wash, black ink, graphite, black crayon, fingerprints and reserves (stencilling) on beige, gilt-edged vellum paper, partly rubbed (taches on verso) 9x12 in.
Victor Hugo Victor Hugo
"Hic clavis, alias porta" (The key is here, the gate elsewhere) 1871
Pen, brown-ink wash, black ink, graphite, black crayon, charcoal, reserves and fingerprints or dabbings with highlights of white gouache on vellum paper, partly rubbed and scraped 18x18 in.

What Hugo was searching for in these drawings were signs that would stimulate his imagination and suggest directions for his pen. Hugo interpreted these foldings, not for psychological purposes like the Swiss physician Hermann Rorschach with his famous tests introduced in 1921, but like a seer. He developed the symmetry, discerned resemblances, discovered figures and carried out all kinds of permutations. Reversal (or, better still, reversability), metamorphoses and fusion were themes so firmly rooted in Hugo's praxis that one commonly finds in his compositions a landscape reflected in water or a figure that reads equally well either way up. —Florian Rodari.

Links:
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Shadows of a Hand
Octopus with the initials V. H.
His art, his techniques...
The Artwork of Victor Hugo
The Roland Collection
Drawings: Victor Hugo - Wikipedia
Countdown 'Til Destruction


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