LAUSANNE.-Bringing together an outstanding ensemble of around 90 drawings, the exhibition at the Fondation de lHermitage highlights Victor Hugos surprisingly modern graphic art; not content with being the author of one of the richest literary works of the 19th century, the romantic genius (1802-1885) also drew incessantly throughout his exceptional life.
The presentation focuses on all the draughtsmans facets ranging from his first caricatures as a schoolboy to those he made later on at the Assemblée Nationale, to his travel diary illustrations as well as his architectural sketches, with special emphasis on more finished, mysterious and tormented drawings that reveal his visionary genius. His activity in this field reached its inspirational climax from 1852 to 1870 when he was compelled to live as an exile in the Channel Islands (Jersey and Guernsey) surrounded by the sea and its changing moods. For most of his work he used ink wash which he splashed and spread across the paper never hesitating to elaborate on any accidental effects, blots, folds, runs, fingerprints and collages. The exhibition shows how Victor Hugos experimental approach to the sheet of paper was way ahead of the times. His inventive use of a wide variety of techniques and materials and his free artistic expression earned him the admiration of artists of the early 20th-century avant-garde movements from Cubism to Surrealism.
Most of the works at the Fondation de lHermitage are from the collection kept at the Maison de Victor Hugo in Paris and displayed in the apartment the writer occupied Place des Vosges before his exile. Several museums and private collectors have also contributed to enhancing the selection which attempts to give an overview of all the periods of the poets graphic activity. Portraits of the artist and his family as well as photographs taken by Victor Hugo and his sons in Jersey give the visitor an insight into his family life. The caricatures which helped to forge the writers fame in the public eye reflect how popular his work was in France. There is a documentary section on Victor Hugos ties with Lausanne. He actually visited the city four times, notably in September 1869, when he was Honorary President of the Congrès de la Paix et de la Liberté. In addition, the visitor will be able to examine posters advertising his publications, original editions of his major works, various manuscripts and letters describing this first great cultural and charismatic figure who dominated the whole spectrum of 19th-century French life with his immense moral and literary stature.