Friday, March 2, 2012

Victor Hugo's drawings

Author most famously of Les Misérables (1862), novelist and dramatist Victor Hugo had a lifelong habit of experimenting with works on paper—with felicitous results. His work seems very modern, perhaps because he keenly enjoyed experimenting with media and exploiting the accidental. The great romantic painter Delacroix wrote to Hugo that, had he decided to become a painter instead of a writer, he would have outshone all of the other artists of their time.
"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
"Le gai chateau"


"Town with Tumbledown Bridge"

Although Hugo asked to be buried in a pauper's coffin, he was given a state funeral and interred in the Pantheon. Two million people followed the procession.


  1. If Victor Hugo lived during these modern times, I imagine he would be considered a "triple threat." His paintings are beautiful and bleak.

  2. Wow. I like "Le gai chateau". The coffee stain looks so cool!

  3. What a curse to be so multi-talented (haha)! Thanks for these, I had literally no idea about them. Absolute gems...

  4. Le gai chateau is my favorite too.