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Shanghai show highlights genius of Victor Hugo

By Cao Chen in Shanghai | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-08-13 07:26

An exhibition featuring French writer Victor Hugo's celebrated creations and related works will take place at the Pearl Art Museum in Shanghai from Tuesday through Dec 1.

The exhibition, titled Victor Hugo: The Inner World of a Genius, will feature over 200 works connected to the writer, including paintings, photos and books, in five exhibition areas according to their time of creation and cultural significance.

"The exhibition will cover almost every aspect of the legendary life of Hugo, allowing audiences to gain a vivid and comprehensive understanding of this preeminent literary figure," says Li Dandan, curator of the show and the executive director of the Pearl Art Museum.

Victor Hugo (1802-85) was a leading figure and a representative of the Romantic Movement in the 19th century and one of the greatest writers in the history of world literature. Hugo's works were among early translations of foreign literature in China.

Shanghai show highlights genius of Victor Hugo

The exhibition will focus on Hugo's life journey and his major works in a chronological order, offering the audience an insight into the Parisian literary master's world-view.

Three of Hugo's well-known masterpieces, Notre-Dame de Paris, Les Miserables and Quatrevingt-treize, are among the highlights of the show.

"They are representative of Hugo's works created during different periods, demonstrating his profound influence on other artists and the era he lived in," says Li.

The exhibition will also display a selection of works by Hugo as a painter and decorative artist.

"For the first time, Chinese audiences will be able to learn about Hugo's work in fields other than literature, and help them gain an understanding of the inner world of this genius," she says.

The show brings together many rarely-seen Hugo creations and related works, including sculptures, letters and interior decorations from the House of Victor Hugo in Paris, many of which are being exhibited for the first time outside of Paris.

For example, the Portrait of Victor Hugo by Leon Bonnat, which is arguably one of the most distinctive images of Hugo ever created, will be shown in the prelude to the exhibition.

Other than being a celebrated writer, Hugo was also an accomplished painter. He began his painting career during his travels in the summer of 1834 when he recorded what he saw along the way.

Shanghai show highlights genius of Victor Hugo

A section of the exhibition is dedicated to some of his most typical paintings, ranging from those created during his travels to the rarely-seen illustrations from his novel Les Travailleurs de la mer.

Many of the paintings will be presented in a digital format.

Gerard Audinet, director of Maison de Victor Hugo and co-organizer of the exhibition, says Hugo's admiration and appreciation of Chinese culture will form an important part of the show.

While Hugo lived in France, he developed a keen interest in Eastern culture, especially Chinese arts. A series of his early paintings titled Oriental Fantasies depicted the landscapes, architecture and people of China as he imagined them. He even copied some Chinese characters to use as inscriptions on some of the buildings.

He collected Chinese porcelain and artworks to decorate Hauteville House, his residence during his years in exile in Guernsey, and at Hauteville Fairy, the house of his mistress Juliette Drouet. In particular, he designed a group of Chinese-style painted lacquer panels to furnish the house.

Organizers say the Shanghai exhibition will include one of the artworks from the Oriental Fantasies series, one of the decorative panels and a panoramic image of Hauteville House.

A series of lectures on the master will also be held throughout the course of the exhibition. The topics will include Hugo and China, modern French history, Hugo's paintings and his novels.

Shanghai show highlights genius of Victor Hugo

(China Daily Global 08/13/2019 page16)

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