Victor Hugo dans le rocher des Proscrits

Charles Hugo
Victor Hugo dans le rocher des Proscrits
vers 1853
épreuve sur papier salé d'après un négatif sur verre au collodion
H. 10,3 ; L. 6,3 cm.
Don Mme Marie-Thérèse et André Jammes, 1984
© Musée d’Orsay, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Charles Hugo (1826 - 1871)
Artwork not currently exhibited in the museum

Between 1852 and 1855, while in exile on Jersey, Victor Hugo developed a passion for photography. The writer had arrived on the Channel Island on 5 August 1852 and wanted to break out of his isolation by spreading his image along with his words. So the Hugo family set up home in Marine Terrace, in a house later referred to as "Jersey's photographic studio". Although Victor Hugo himself never used this phrase, it would have been justified given the enormous quantity of prints he produced here from four hundred negatives. There were portraits and landscapes destined to illustrate a publication which, in the end, never saw the light of day. It was censored because of Hugo's writings criticising "Napoléon le Petit".
Although Victor Hugo himself never produced photographs – he preferred to use his sons Charles and François-Victor or his loyal friend Auguste Vacquerie as intermediaries - he did supervise and direct the procedures. He oversaw all the sittings with his son Charles. Moreover, Hugo sent a photograph of himself sitting on the rock of the exiles to one of his correspondents, with this comment: "You wanted my portrait. Here it is. I did it myself. I will remain in exile, as I wish to remain standing".
Hugo's enthusiasm for photography demonstrates his awareness of new developments, and his ability to see the possibilities these new techniques could bring to history and art. He even said to the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel: "So we'll start a photographic revolution (while we are waiting)".
Victor Hugo was also bent on creating his own legend. He wanted to leave, for future generations, evidence of a moment when he made a mark on history, which gives weight to these words of Madame Hugo, recorded by Adèle Hugo in her Journal: "Look, my dear girl, you who have many years ahead of you, look at your father. See Victor Hugo and always remember that you saw him on that rock, looking at France, in exile".

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