Hugo was not a bohemian, and his connections to Bohemia were tenuous
at best. He was always a member of the bourgeoisie, and designated
leader of of the Romantic movement. However, his involvement with
the arts affected and influenced the Bohemian movement in three major
the leader of a Romantic salon (for more information on
salons in general, click
here), Hugo influenced many of the people who would
emulate Romantic ideals, and these ideals would influence
the artists and writers of Bohemia.
- Having established
his own salon, Hugo invited artists to join it, even though his
society had been, up to that point, predominantly literary.
testament to Hugo's open-mindedness in relation to those
who participated in the arts culminated in the wild production
of his play Hernani, in
which Bohemia played a major role.
political and social beliefs and standpoints wavered from right to
left throughout his life, and he was often virtually the definition
of contradiction. André Maurois muses over this in his 1954 book Olympio:
The Life of Victor Hugo:
it that this prudent, economical man was also generous? That this
chaste adolescent, this model father, grew to be, in his last years,
an aging faun? That this legitimist changed, first into a Bonapartist,
only, later still, to be hailed as the grandfather of the Republic?
That this pacifist could sing, better than anybody, of the glories
of the flags of Wagram? That this bourgeois in the eyes of other
bourgeois came to assume the stature of a rebel? These are the questions
that every biographer of Victor Hugo must answer."
We can only
begin to answer these questions here, and to do so we'll look at
Hugo's connections to Bohemia.
his own salon in 1827 after the publication of his play called Cromwell.
The preface to this work heavily affected many young artists of
the time, and it became a manifesto of the Romantic cause. In this
preface, Hugo argued for "more vitality, variety, and local colour
in the academic school of history-painting as well as in the drama"
(Easton 44). Essentially what he was arguing for was a romantic
rebirth of drama. This is a classic example of a school of art rebelling
against its predecessor, (Romantics against the Classicals) and
Hugo made a big impact on those who read this preface, and many
of these artistic values were the kind held by the bohemian artists
and writers. Bohemia naturally sprang from the Romantic movement,
and thus Hugo was an influence.
to Artists and Writers Alike
Hugo also went
against the grain by bringing painters into his salon, among
a society which had been predominantly literary. These artists
greatly admired Hugo, and Easton believes that "the compliance
of the artist sprang from something deeper, from a long history
of humility - and so from gratitude" (Easton
is a picture of the salon of Nordier, which Hugo frequented before
starting his own.
|For too long,
the world of the artist had been encompassed within "the libretto,
the novel, and the pamphlet," and the writer had looked down upon
him. Now, here was this outstanding, highly respected literary figure
welcoming artists into his own salon and writing literature which
provided new and exciting subject matter for the painters who based
their work on it (Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris is a fine example
of such a work).