Valentine Hugo’s Contes Bizarres


Looking around at the weekend for drawings by Valentine Hugo (1887–1968), I was reminded of a defunct bookselling blog which hosts scans of the illustrations that Hugo created in 1933 for Contes Bizarres, a collection of stories by Achim von Arnim (1781–1831). I posted a link to this place in the past but since neglected sites have a tendency to abruptly vanish I thought it worth bumping the illustrations into the future here. Valentine Hugo never seems to receive the same attention as the other well-known women Surrealists despite her evident talent and closer connections to the original Surrealist group than those who came later. Her careful renderings are easy to recognise, often done with pastel or crayon on textured black paper or card. This edition of Contes Bizarres was a collection of translations by Théophile Gautier with an introduction by André Breton which suggests the stories are bizarres enough to be considered Surrealist precursors. Not having read any of them I can’t say much about them but Max Ernst counted von Arnim among his favourites poets. André Breton, meanwhile, favoured German Romanticism enough to make Novalis the Magus of Flames in the Jeu de Marseilles card deck but Achim von Arnim is one such writer who still seems to be more popular in France than he is in the Anglosphere. Valentine Hugo apparently illustrated an edition of Les Chants de Maldoror around the same time as Contes Bizarres. If this is the case I’ve yet to see the illustrations anywhere.




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Max Ernst’s favourites

2 thoughts on “Valentine Hugo’s Contes Bizarres”

  1. Apologies for the length of the following:
    THIS in yesterday’s NYTimes (more images online)

    Most pertinently from that same article:
    Here’s to some possible Continental travels for Thee Mancunian, specifically–

    Some 2024 Surrealism Exhibitions
    “Imagine! 100 Years of International Surrealism”
    Through July 21 at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts Belgium, in Brussels;
    “Histoire de ne pas rire. Surrealism in Belgium”
    Through June 16 at Bozar, in Brussels;
    “Fantastic Visions: 100 Years of Surrealism From the National Galleries of Scotland”
    Through Aug. 31 at the Museum of Art Pudong, in Shanghai;
    “Surrealist: Lee Miller”
    Through April 14 at the Heide Museum, in Melbourne, Australia;
    “But Live Here? No Thanks: Surrealism + Anti-Fascism”
    Oct. 15 through March 2, 2025, at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, in Munich;
    “Surrealism at the Harn,”
    Through June 2 at the Harn Museum of Art, in Gainesville, Fla.;
    “Surrealism From Caribbean and African Diasporic Artists”
    March 10 through July 28 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth;
    “Surrealism 100: Prague, Tartu and Other Stories”
    April 4 through Sept. 8 at the Eesti Rahva Muuseum, in Tartu, Estonia;
    “Surrealism: Worlds in Dialogue”
    Aug. 31, 2024, through Jan. 5, 2025, at the Kunsthalle Vogelmann, in Heilbronn, Germany;
    “Surrealism So Far”
    Sept. 4 through Jan. 13, 2025, at the Pompidou Center, in Paris;
    “Forbidden Territories: 100 Years of Surreal Landscapes”
    Nov. 23 through April 27, 2025, at the Hepworth Wakefield, in Wakefield, England;

  2. Thanks! The Surrealist anniversary seems to be prompting a lot of this activity. And I was reading a review of the Brussels exhibition just the other day. I’ve been to the Belgian coast but still haven’t visited any of the major cities. Wakefield isn’t too far away from Manchester, that one may be worth a visit later.

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