Victor HUGO (1802 - 1885)

Coastal Scene, Guernsey Sold

Black chalk, pen and brown ink and brown wash, with white gouache, on buff paper.
Signed, dated and inscribed 1858 / Victor Hugo / Guernesey at the lower right.
104 x 271 mm. (4 1/8 x 10 3/4 in.)


Dated 1858, this sheet was drawn during Hugo’s fifteen-year period of exile in Guernsey, during which time he came to be fascinated by the majestic vistas of sea and sky that he saw around him. As he wrote in 1859, in a letter to a friend, ‘I need these periods of rest sometimes in my solitude, in face of the ocean, amid this somber scenery which has a supreme attraction for me and which draws me toward the dazzling apparitions of the infinite.’ The rugged coastline and rock formations of Guernsey provided Hugo with a variety of dramatic motifs for his drawings. He would spend a considerable amount of time wandering over the island, at all times of the day and night, and took a large number of photographs of the scenery, with the intention of publishing a book of them in collaboration with his son Charles.

One scholar has noted of the drawings made by Hugo during his stay in the Channel Islands that ‘his visual world became enriched almost to the point of obsession with the spectacle of the sea. But this grandiose, monotonous horizon never changed. As a result, the graphic work moved further and further away from the real in an attempt to catch the kaleidoscope of sea, rock and cloud, or to reflect the ebb and flow of an imaginary world in which shapes could form and dissolve in an instant.’2 Even after his return to Paris in 1870, Hugo continued to visit Guernsey, and to produce drawings inspired by its bold and dramatic landscape.

Private collection, France
Anonymous sale (‘Collection de Monsieur X’), Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 22 March 2002, lot 179
Jean-Luc Baroni Ltd., London, in 2003
Private collection, New York.

Victor HUGO

Coastal Scene, Guernsey


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