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Victor Hugo

Victor Marie Hugo

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Victor Hugo produced more than 4000 drawings. Originally pursued as a casual hobby, drawing became more important to Hugo shortly before his exile, when he made the decision to stop writing in order to devote himself to politics. Drawing became his exclusive creative outlet during the period 1848–1851. Hugo worked only on paper, and on a small scale; usually in dark brown or black pen-and-ink wash, sometimes with touches of white, and rarely with color. The surviving drawings are surprisingly accomplished and "modern" in their style and execution, foreshadowing the experimental techniques of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. He kept his artwork out of the public eye, fearing it would overshadow his literary work. However, he enjoyed sharing his drawings with his family and friends, often in the form of ornately handmade calling cards, many of which were given as gifts to visitors when he was in political exile. Some of his work was shown to, and appreciated by, contemporary artists such as Van Gogh and Delacroix; the latter expressed the opinion that if Hugo had decided to become a painter instead of a writer, he would have outshone the artists of their century.

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Victor Marie Hugo (French: [viktɔʁ maʁi yɡo] ( listen); 26 February 1802 – 22 May 1885) was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside of France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame (French: Notre-Dame de Paris), 1831. In France, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations (The Contemplations) and La Légende des siècles (The Legend of the Ages).

Hugo was at the forefront of the romantic literary movement with his play Cromwell and drama Hernani. Many of his works have inspired music, both during his lifetime and after his death, including the musicals Notre-Dame de Paris and Les Misérables. He produced more than 4,000 drawings in his lifetime, and campaigned for social causes such as the abolition of capital punishment.

Though a committed royalist when he was young, Hugo's views changed as the decades passed, and he became a passionate supporter of republicanism; his work touches upon most of the political and social issues and the artistic trends of his time. He is buried in the Panthéon in Paris. His legacy has been honoured in many ways, including his portrait being placed on French currency.

Victor Hugo was the third son of Joseph Léopold Sigisbert Hugo (1774–1828) and Sophie Trébuchet (1772–1821); his brothers were Abel Joseph Hugo (1798–1855) and Eugène Hugo (1800–1837). He was born in 1802 in Besançon in the eastern region of Franche-Comté. On 19 November 1821, Léopold Hugo wrote to his son that he had been conceived on one of the highest peaks in the Vosges Mountains, on a journey from Lunéville to Besançon. " This elevated origin, he went on, seems to have had effects on you so that your muse is now continually sublime." Léopold Hugo was a freethinking republican who considered Napoleon a hero; by contrast, Sophie Hugo was a Catholic Royalist who was intimately involved with her possible lover General Victor Lahorie, who was executed in 1812 for plotting against Napoleon.

Hugo's childhood was a period of national political turmoil. Napoleon was proclaimed Emperor of the French two years after Hugo's birth, and the Bourbon Monarchy was restored before his 13th birthday. The opposing political and religious views of Hugo's parents reflected the forces that would battle for supremacy in France throughout his life: Hugo's father was a high-ranking officer in Napoleon's army until he failed in Spain (one of the reasons why his name is not present on the Arc de Triomphe).

Since Hugo's father was an officer, the family moved frequently and Hugo learned much from these travels. On a childhood family trip to Naples, Hugo saw the vast Alpine passes and the snowy peaks, the magnificently blue Mediterranean, and Rome during its festivities. Though he was only five years old at the time, he remembered the six-month-long trip vividly. They stayed in Naples for a few months and then headed back to Paris.

At the beginning of her marriage, Hugo's mother Sophie followed her husband to posts in Italy (where Léopold served as a governor of a province near Naples) and Spain (where he took charge of three Spanish provinces). Weary of the constant moving required by military life, and at odds with her husband's lack of Catholic beliefs, Sophie separated temporarily from Léopold in 1803 and settled in Paris with her children. Thereafter she dominated Hugo's education and upbringing. As a result, Hugo's early work in poetry and fiction reflect her passionate devotion to both King and Faith. It was only later, during the events leading up to France's 1848 Revolution, that he would begin to rebel against his Catholic Royalist education and instead champion Republicanism and Freethought.

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Victor Hugo Artworks
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