Portrait of Victor Hugo (French, Besançon 1802–1885 Paris)
Drypoint on laid paper; second state of eight
Image: 7 5/8 x 5 7/16 in. (19.4 x 13.8 cm)
Plate: 8 7/8 x 6 15/16 in. (22.5 x 17.6 cm)
Sheet: 11 1/4 x 8 1/2 in. (28.5 x 21.6 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1916
Not on view
The author of Notre-Dame de Paris(1831) and Les Misérables (1862) was an old man when Rodin proposed to make his portrait. Hugo's patience with sittings had been strained to the breaking point by another sculptor whose efforts are reported to have produced a mediocre bust. Moreover, Hugo's devoted mistress Juliette Drouet was dying of cancer. Details of the story vary, but the earliest published accounts agree that Rodin was permitted to be present in the Hugo household and to make sketches, but that the poet would not actually pose. Rodin made dozens of drawings from every possible viewpoint, some rapidly sketched on the spot and others from memory, before being allowed to set up a modeling stand in an out-of-the-way corner to work in clay. From these preliminaries Rodin created the bust of Hugo that he first exhibited at the Salon of the Société des Artistes Français in 1884. A series of splendidly executed prints followed. The fifth state of this Three-Quarter View was published in the journal L'Artiste in February 1885.