Victor Hugo

The Dark Romanticist


The Viennese Leopold Museum dedicates a small but very beautiful exhibition to Victor Hugo´s  lesser knwon graphic work.

Like in his novels the writer focusses on darkly romantic, sometimes even eerie scenes in his drawings. Some of them might have been illustrations accompanying his texts, some might have served as inspiration or points of reference when writing, some were simply created out of leisure and recreation. Most drawings appear casual and off-handed, and are indeed made using the same tools Hugo needed for his writing: ink and quill. But he also enjoyed experiments, using coffee like ink, improvising with techniques of printing and stencilling, and some works comprise elements of collage. Considering the time they were created in, they appear extraordinarily modern (some of the drawings are completely abstract), and anticipating later art movements. This great liberty is probably explained by the fact that Victor Hugo never showed his graphic work publicly during his lifetime: the drawings were gifts for friends, pleas to not forget him during his exile on the Channel Islands, or just for his private pleasure.

The reduced frames and quiet manner of hanging render the small format drawings little gems. The release of a very detailed catalogue accompanies the show and draws further references to the works of Goya and Odilon Redon, apart from the comparison with one of Turner´s watercolours in the exhibition.


Julia Maurer





Leopold Museum
Museumsplatz 1
1070 Wien





Header: Ausschnitt aus KOMPOSITION, um 1856, Braune Tinte, Gouache auf Papier, 17,1 x 24 cm, Photo: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
1: „SPITZEN UND GESPENSTER“, 1855/56, Kohle, braune Tinte auf Papier, 5,8 x 6,7 cm, Privatsammlung, Photo: Institut für Kunstgeschichte der Universität Wien, René Steyer
2: DIE ERSCHAFFUNG DER WELT, 1864 – 18 69, Kohle, schwarze und grüne Tinte auf Papier, 6 x 14 cm, Sammlung Klüser, München, Photo: Sammlung Klüser/Mario Gastinger, München
3: RUINEN EINES AQUÄDUKTES, um 1850, Sepia, Tusche, Grafitstift, Fettstift auf Papier, 24,9 x 32,9 cm, Maisons de Victor Hugo, Paris/Guernesey, Photo: Maisons de Victor Hugo/Roger-Viollet
4: AUSSTELLUNGSANISCHT VICTOR HUGO, 2017, Leopold Museum Wien, Photo: Lisa Rastl