A comprehensive exhibition of the life of French writer Victor Hugo (1802-1885) is now on show at the Pearl Art Museum through December 1.
Hugo, a novelist, poet and dramatist, is one of the most important French Romantic writers. Among his best-known works are “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1831) and “Les Misérables” (1862).
Titled “Dans L’Intimite du Genie,” the exhibition offers a panoramic view of Hugo’s life.
It features nearly 200 paintings, sculptures, photos, books and interior designs created by the master as well as manuscripts and everyday objects. Some are being exhibited for the first time outside Paris.
Born in Besançon, the son of an army general, Hugo was raised and educated in Paris by his mother when his parents were separated.
From 1815 to 1818, he attended the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. In early adolescence he began to write verse tragedies and poetry.
Hugo gained fame with his play “Hernani” (1830) and his historical work “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1831) which became an instant success.
The exhibition features a group of portraits, pictures and sculptures of Hugo, including a bronze statue created by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917).
In his later life, Hugo became involved in politics as a supporter of the republican form of government.
After three unsuccessful attempts, Hugo was elected in 1841 to the Académie Française. This triumph was overshadowed by the death of his daughter Léopoldine in 1843. It was only after a decade that Hugo again published books.
One of the paintings in the exhibition is of his daughter. It is said that Hugo missed her so much that he kept this canvas with him for years.
It may surprise visitors that Hugo was also an artist, as he is mainly remembered for his literature. Although Hugo completed 3,000 paintings, he was depreciative of his work, stating “they are merely a self-entertainment.” He often sent them as name cards or gift cards to his friends and relatives.
The exhibition showcases some of his landscape paintings and illustrations for his novels. He seems to have preferred small pieces.
When the coup d’état by Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte took place in 1851, Hugo believed his life was in danger.
He fled to Brussels and then to Jersey and Guernsey in the English Channel.
Hugo’s partly voluntary exile lasted 20 years. During this time, he wrote at Hauteville House some of his best works, including “Les Châtiments” and “Les Misérables.”
It was in Hauteville that Hugo displayed his talent for space design, interior decoration and his affinity with China.
He widely collected Chinese porcelain and art, and used them to decorate his private residence at Hauteville.
This home is showcased to visitors with a short screening plus an on-site hologram.
The exhibition is a worthy tribute to a man most know as a great writer, but who was also an artist and statesman.
Date: August 13-December 1 (closed on Mondays), 10am-6pm
Venue: Pearl Art Museum
Address: 8/F, 1588 Wuzhong Rd