Saturday, 30 May 2015

Victor Hugo

1952 was the 150th anniversary of the birth of the famous French author and poet, Victor Hugo. To commemorate this anniversary Poland issued a lovely stamp engraved by Czeslaw Slania. This wasn't the only stamp commemorating Victor Hugo released that year, but more on that later.

Born in 1802 in Besancon, France, Victor Hugo (1802-1885) spent his youth amid the political turmoil of Napoleon's reign as emperor. Hugo's father was a ranking officer in Napoleon's army and in this capacity his family travelled extensively with him. Despite the fact that he was only five years old at the time, Hugo vividly remembered a six month trip to Naples, during which he saw Rome, the Mediterranean, and the snowy alpine passes. Such experiences he would later draw upon in his poetry.

Hugo's parents had vastly different political views. This coupled with the fact that she resented the children being dragged all over the place led to the couple getting a divorce. From this point, Hugo's mother took control of his education. Her influence is evident in the early works of Hugo, which convey her devotion to monarchy and the Catholic faith.

Eventually, Hugh broke the shackles of his mother's beliefs, and after the 1848 Revolution he championed republicanism and free-thinking. It was in this same year that Hugo entered parliament and became quite the radical. He wrote speeches which called for universal suffrage and free education for children. He was also an advocate for the abolition of the death penalty. Hugo went into exile after Napoleon had established an anti-parliamentary constitution in 1851. He spent his exile years up to 1870 on the islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

Victor Hugo published his first novel in 1823, entitled Han d'Islande. But he is most famous for his novels The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831 and Les Miserables in 1862. Hugo was also somewhat of an artist, producing over 4000 drawings. Initially drawing was simply a hobby, but later in life after going into political exile he stopped writing and used drawing as his creative outlet.

Slania's engraving includes a stunning portrait of Victor Hugo. A quill, inkwell, and book sit in the foreground ready for the great writer to take up and start scratching out something new...

Just as a matter of interest I have have discovered that Poland wasn't the only country to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Victor Hugo in the form of a stamp. The Soviet Union also issued its own commemorative stamp.

"Stamp of USSR 1683" by Post of USSR - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

Personally I prefer the Slania stamp - not because this is a Slania blog and should therefore have a Slania bias! I just think the Soviet version a bit austere for my taste. And I really like the way Slania incorporated the use of writing materials into the design.

Until next time...

Stay Slania Crazy!

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