Hugo, Valentine, 1887-1968Alternative names
French artist, author, and surrealist.
From the description of Valentine Hugo Papers, 1872-1968. (Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center (HRC); University of Texas at Austin). WorldCat record id: 85242169
Valentine Hugo was a painter and designer whose works employed dream-like imagery. She illustrated some literary works by the Surrealists, such as Paul Eluard's Hommes et Bêtes. Crevel was a Surrealist poet and artist.
From the description of Letters received, from and about René Crevel, 1925-1935. (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 80211465
Born Valentine Marie Augustine Gross in 1887, French artist and author Valentine Hugo began her life in Capècure, a suburb of Boulogne-sur-mer. Daughter of musician Auguste Gross and Zèlie Dèmelin, Valentine developed a love for art, theatre, and music early in life.
While attending school in May of 1909, Valentine Hugo stood in the wings of the Thèâtre du Châtelet watching Serge Diaghilev's Russian ballet company Ballets Russes perform for the first time. She would spend portions of the next six years sketching Ballet Russes dancers Karsavina and Nijinsky. In 1913, the Galerie Montaigne sponsored an exposition of Hugo's sketches in the foyer of the Champs-Élysèes thèâtre on the tumultuous opening night of Stravinsky's famed ballet Le Sacre du Printemps.
In the same year as her first successful exhibition, Hugo became friends with a number of prominent French artists including Roger de la Fresnaye, Lèon-Paul Fargue, Erik Satie, and Jean Cocteau. The following year, Satie, Cocteau, and Hugo would collaborate on the ballet Parade ; unfortunately, Hugo would not be part of its eventual production in 1917.
Valentine met her future husband Jean Hugo, grandson of the influential French author Victor Hugo, in 1917 at the home of Mimi and Cypa Godebski(a). In 1919 they were married with Cocteau and Satie as their only witnesses. Neither of Jean's parents consented to the marriage, perhaps contributing to its eventual demise.
In March of 1926, Valentine attended one of the first Surrealist expositions where she met Paul Éluard. Their meeting sparked a friendship that would continue until his death in 1952. In 1927, after working as costume designer on the set of La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, Valentine returned to Paris a full-fledged Surrealist; Jean Hugo, however, never embraced the Surrealist movement. In the years following their hurried nuptials, their tastes diverged leading to separation in 1929 and finally divorce in 1932. (Despite the end of their marital relations, Valentine and Jean remained friends until her death in 1968.)
Another Surrealist with whom Valentine had a brief romance was Andrè Breton. From August of 1930 to October of 1932, Valentine lived, traveled, and worked with the self-declared leader of the Surrealists. During this time, Valentine befriended the rest of the Surrealists, namely Gala and Salvador Dali, Nusch Éluard, Max Ernst, Georges Hugnet, Renè Char, and Tristan Tzara.
In January of 1940, the Director of Radio-Mondial Jean Fraysse asked Valentine Hugo to work for his station. Her work at Radio-Mondial was short lived; Valentine quit in June when the station fell under German control after the invasion of France. Yet her work was not in vain, working on the radio for these six months prepared her for future radio broadcasts in the 1950s and 1960s.
In her latter years, she would rarely emerge from her home and preferred the solitude of her house to the bustling streets of Paris. She alone survived most of her acquaintances from youth; Erik Satie, Raymond Radiguet, Paul Éluard, Jean Cocteau, and Andrè Breton all passed before Valentine's death in 1968.
From the guide to the Valentine Hugo Papers TXRC06-A16., 1872-1968, (The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center)
- Radiguet, Raymond, 1903-1923
- Art, French--20th century
- Eluard, Paul, 1895-1952
- Brancusi, Constantin, 1876-1957
- Satie, Erik, 1866-1925
- France (as recorded)