Hugo in exile

Hugo in exile

  • Victor Hugo on the Azette strike

    HUGO Charles (1826 - 1871)

  • Victor Hugo on the Rock of the Outlaws

    HUGO Charles (1826 - 1871)

  • Victor Hugo furniture public auction poster.

To close

Title: Victor Hugo on the Azette strike

Author : HUGO Charles (1826 - 1871)

Creation date : 1852

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 93 - Width 70

Technique and other indications: Salted paper

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Picture reference: 98-001973 / RMN4219298-001973

Victor Hugo on the Azette strike

© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

To close

Title: Victor Hugo on the Rock of the Outlaws

Author : HUGO Charles (1826 - 1871)

Creation date : 1853

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Orsay Museum website

Contact copyright: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Picture reference: 98-002019 / PHO1986-123-159

Victor Hugo on the Rock of the Outlaws

© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

To close

Title: Victor Hugo furniture public auction poster.

Author :

Creation date : 1852

Date shown: 1852

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Paris archives website

Contact copyright: © Archives of Paris

Picture reference: D 42 E3 27

Victor Hugo furniture public auction poster.

© Archives of Paris

Publication date: October 2003

Historical context

The outlaw
Playwright, novelist, poet, Victor Hugo has become a sacred monster of French literature. During the XIXe century his insatiable literary activity is increasingly reflected in his political commitment. In vain.

A fierce opponent of Napoleon III, he had to go into exile in Brussels to escape the repression that fell on the Republicans: 26,000 arrests, 9,500 people deported to Cayenne and Algeria and 1,500 expulsions (including 66 deputies). But as long as Victor Hugo does not publish works, or even pamphlets against the regime of Napoleon III, his wife Adèle and his daughter can perfectly well remain in Paris. By taking the decision to write first The history of a crime (which he did not complete then) then Napoleon-le-Petit (whose title is more than a provocation) Victor Hugo made him- even an outlaw. The Hugo family decided to sell all their furniture, to meet in Jersey before the publication, in August 1852, of Napoléon-le-Petit.

The poster for the sale caused quite a stir in Paris. There is a crowd at the furniture exhibition. It is a public manifestation of his rejection of the political situation, as well as the preparation of his family's exile.

Hugo chose the island of Jersey, a French-speaking and liberal land, where, surrounded by his relatives and a few other proscribed, he continued to express his opposition to the regime by publishing in Brussels the pamphlet Napoleon the Little (1852) then verses "avenging. »Under the explicit title, The punishments (1853).

Image Analysis

Photos of exile
Exile is experienced as an injustice, a mourning crossed by crises of discouragement. However, the long years outside France proved to be conducive to creation. Contact with wild nature and the spectacle of the ocean inspire Hugo to engage in poetry, The punishments, then appeased, Contemplations (1856). From the outset, Hugo plans to match his works with portraits in order to maintain his legend, at a time when his existence is turning into history. At the time, the daguerreotype technique [1] only allowed reproduction by means of lithography, a process deemed "heavy" by Hugo, who preferred the nascent photography [2]. He sensed the artistic possibilities of this discovery and had a workshop set up in his house in Jersey. Initiated in this technique by the republican Edmond Bacot, Charles, the son of Hugo, becomes the principal executor of the father's project.
It is Hugo the father who stages the photographs, chooses the sites and poses. His keen eye composes, like a painter, views that appear like illustrations in verses composed at the same time.
Victor Hugo on the Azette strike (1852-1853)
Hugo wanted first of all to remember the French as a resistance fighter, loyal defenders of the republican ideals of 1848 and rejecting any compromise (amnestied in 1859, he refused to return to France). To this end, he takes his place on the beach of Azette, as if surrounded by the sea, his arms crossed and his gaze fixed on the horizon. The assurance of the pose, the stability of the composition, of which he appears as the subtly offset "pivot", refer to the conclusion of "Ultima Verba [3]":
And if there's only one left, I'll be the one!

Victor Hugo on the Rock of the Outlaws (1853)
Hugo also wants to be visionary and demiurge. In this photograph which he particularly appreciated, diagonals lead the gaze beyond the promontory of which the silhouette of the poet constitutes the summit, discovering in two thirds of the image a vast expanse, open to infinity, where harmoniously alternate dark and light bands. Exalted, the figure of the poet appears, facing the universe, the only one capable of entering into communication with nature and with God, as evoked by the verses of "Stella [4]":
And while in long folds the shadow lifted its veil,
I heard a voice coming from the star
And who said ...

Interpretation

The role of the poet
The photographs of Jersey prove to be of great strength. At the time, no artist, whether painter or photographer, rivaled Hugo in the art of representing himself. The mastery of chiaroscuro and the expressiveness of the poses break with traditional representations, which are much more academic. Hugo was able to take advantage of the direct character and the poetic force of photography to impose his image of the poet in exile. Faithful to the romantic conception, he made him a modern-day prophet, ready to receive revelation, perched on the rock of the Outlawed like Moses on Sinai. The poet is also the one who enlightens peoples through words, here poetry whose lyricism matches that of the photographs. Thus Hugo himself and consciously fashioned his own myth. In the decades that followed, illustrators and cartoonists reused the image of Hugo on his "pedestal", a veritable living statue. This representation is in line with the expectations of 19th century society.e century, as shown by the poet's funeral in 1885 and his place in the school of the IIIe Republic.

  • literature
  • poetry
  • Hugo (Victor)
  • exile
  • Jersey
  • Napoleon III
  • the punishments
  • writers

Bibliography

Paul Bénichou, The Time of the Prophets, Paris, Gallimard, 1977.Sophie GROSSIORD, Victor Hugo, "and if there is only one left ...", Paris, Gallimard, coll. "Discoveries", 1998. Victor HUGO, The punishments, reed. Paris, Hachette, 1998. Adèle HUGO, The Diary of Adèle Hugo, Paris, Modern letters, Minard, 1968-1984.Adèle HUGO, Victor Hugo told by Adèle Hugo, Paris, Plon, 1985. Hubert JUNE, Victor Hugo, volume II “1844-1870”, Paris, Flammarion, 1992.Catalogue of the exhibition La Gloire de Victor Hugo (Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, 1985-1986), Paris, RMN, 1985.Catalogue of the exhibition In collaboration with the sun.Victor Hugo, photographs of exile, Paris, Orsay Museum - House of Victor Hugo, 1998.

Notes

1. Daguerreotype: process developed by Daguerre in 1838, consisting in fixing the image on a metal plate. The daguerreotype allows obtaining a direct but unique positive.

2. Photography: process developed by Fox-Talbot in 1839 and officially introduced in France in 1847. It allows the printing of multiple positive proofs from a single negative on paper or glass.

3. “Ultima Verba”, Jersey, December 2, 1853, is the poem that closes Les Châtiments.

4. “Stella”, Jersey, August 31, 1853, in Les Châtiments.

To cite this article

Stéphanie CABANNE, "Hugo in exile"


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