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Jean Hugo

Jean Hugo

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The great-grandson of Victor Hugo, Jean Hugo was a French painter, illustrator, theatre designer and author. He was born in Paris and died in his home at the Mas de Fourques, near Lunel, France. Brought up in a lively artistic environment, he began teaching himself drawing and painting and wrote essays and poetry from a very early age. His artistic career spans the 20th century. From his early sketches of the First World War, through the creative ferment of the Parisian interwar years, and up to his death in 1984. He was part of a number of artistic circles that included Jean Cocteau, Raymond Radiguet, Pablo Picasso, Georges Auric, Erik Satie, Blaise Cendrars, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Paul Eluard, Francis Poulenc, Charles Dullin, Louis Jouvet, Colette, Marcel Proust, Jacques Maritain, Max Jacob, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Marie Bell, Louise de Vilmorin, Cecil Beaton and many others.

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Jean Hugo (19 November 1894 – 21 June 1984) was a painter, illustrator, theatre designer and author. He was born in Paris and died in his home at the Mas de Fourques, near Lunel, France. Brought up in a lively artistic environment, he began teaching himself drawing and painting and wrote essays and poetry from a very early age. His artistic career spans the 20th century, from his early sketches of the First World War, through the creative ferment of the Parisian interwar years, and up to his death in 1984. He was part of a number of artistic circles that included Jean Cocteau, Raymond Radiguet, Pablo Picasso, Georges Auric, Erik Satie, Blaise Cendrars, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Paul Eluard, Francis Poulenc, Charles Dullin, Louis Jouvet, Colette, Marcel Proust, Jacques Maritain, Max Jacob, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Marie Bell, Louise de Vilmorin, Cecil Beaton and many others.

Jean Hugo was the great-grandson of the poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman, human rights activist and exponent of the Romantic movement in France, Victor Hugo. His grandfather, Charles Hugo was a journalist, pioneer of early photographic techniques and a campaigner against the death penalty, and his father Georges Hugo was a published author and a recognised painter.

His mother, Pauline Ménard-Dorian, was the daughter of Paul-François Ménard, conseiller général and député of the Hérault department during the 1870s–80s, by his wife Aline Dorian, daughter of Pierre Frédéric Dorian, minister of works during the siege of Paris.

Jean Hugo was married twice, first in 1919 to Valentine Hugo (née Valentine Gross, no children from this marriage) and then in 1949 to Lauretta Hope-Nicholson, daughter of Hedley Hope-Nicholson. Jean Hugo and Lauretta had seven children, several of whom have gone on to establish successful careers in the arts.

Jean Hugo's half-brother François Hugo designed limited-edition jewellery interpretations for Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Max Ernst and Coco Chanel during the '20s Modern period.

Pierre Hugo – son of François Hugo – is also a jewellery designer and has written a book about the artistic legacy of the Hugo family, Les Hugo – Un Temoignage (Rocher, France, 2007).

Hugo is predominantly known for his sketches and oil or gouache paintings, which are often executed in small formats. He also illustrated books, designed theatre sets and costumes and produced ceramics, murals, textile designs and stained glass windows. Hugo designed the sets and costumes for Carl Theodor Dreyer's film The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928). His paintings can be viewed at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, and are also present in collections in London, Tokyo, Toronto, Paris, Marseille, and at the Musee Fabre in Montpellier, France – where there is room dedicated to his paintings.

Jean Hugo's painting is unique in the artistic panorama of the first half of the 20th century and maintains an authentic originality while evoking certain avant-garde themes of magical realism or metaphysical painting. At the start of the 1930s, in between naïve and happy scenes and various theatrical projects – such as Jean Cocteau's Les mariés de la Tour Eiffel – he produced a series of masterful works in brooding, unsettling, tones (Solitude, 1933).

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Jean Hugo Artworks
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