I was spent some time in Madrid. It was a strange time in my life when I was in that weird place at the end of college and beginning of life. My time there held many wondrous things like learning to cook (visit on April 25 for more on that) and reading Don Quixote in Spanish. There were also a few not so stellar moments, like falling in not one, but two fountains at the Alhambra. Perhaps one of the most inspiring parts of my time in Madrid was my encounters with art. Goya, Picasso, Dahli–the list goes on and on. One of the most surprising artistic discoveries I made in Spain was the visual artistry of French writer Victor Hugo. As it turns out, when not writing about 24601 and a hunchback, Hugo was quite the artist.
Most of his work are simple pen and ink sketches where he plays with light and shade (thematically similar to his written works), evoking images of characters, justice in the form of the guillotine, and cityscapes. I would, in my meager understanding of art, call Hugo a Surrealist, or at least a pre-Surrealist. The afternoon I spent perusing his collections of drawings on exhibit at the Thyssen-Bornemisze Museum down the street from the Prado was one of my most memorable. Often when I find I need inspiration, I’ll open the book I bought there that showcases his drawings. Not only does it allow me to brush up my Spanish, it reminds me of the layers of meaning even simplicity can have. One of my favorite pieces of his is this tentacled wonder. Note how it fills the space and how he uses layering and pressure to create varying depths of shading.
Another fantastic piece: