Entrance of the Mediums

Spiritism and art, from Hugo to Breton

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Spiritism and art, from Hugo to Breton.

It is a very odd way to make art without pretending to do so.
From 1853 till the early 1930s, it was the golden age of spiritism.
This form of spirituality helps in solving certain great questions of the century and responds to spiritual needs, in a strangely atheistic and democratic manner which also agrees with scientism.

It is quite astounding, and involves many phenomenons, including what we know as table-turning or talking boards, "talking" tables that deliver a message. Besides these vocal phenomenons, often of highly political content, there are also artistic phenomenons, mostly drawings and some paintings, mixed with poetry.

The HUGO family lived in Jersey at the time when spiritism became popular in France, and they started practicing table-turning, with CHARLES HUGO, the oldest son, acting as spirit medium.

Very ahead of the 20th century, the artist takes on a position which anticipates that of DUCHAMP and in fact that of many modern artists who wished to step back, leaving their work in the forefront.
The spirit medium is solely a go-between, it is the entity, the spirit itself who talks and makes decisions, the medium only lends his body, the artist is in some sort of parenthesis and alleges that he has no control over what is actually taking place.
If we try to explain this by psychic phenomenons, by means of the subconscious or by how the human mind operates, in a mode that could be assimilated to hypnotic sleep, the result is a state of disinhibition and of creative freedom.
A new artistic field thus opens up, through the strange and quaint experience of table-turning, of automatic writing and drawing. There are table phenomenons but also "trance" mediums who fall asleep and deliver a message during their slumber.

Gérard Audinet - Director of the Maison de Victor Hugo / translation Delphine Dalquié

Maison de Victor Hugo


Victorien Sardou, La Maison du Prophète Elie,
vers 1857, Encre sur papier, 47 x 60 cm, collection M. et Mme Claude de Flers, Paris, © Studio Sébert

Charles Hugo , Victor Hugo,

portrait avec enluminure, 1853-1855, Folio 13 de l’Album Allix, épreuve sur papier salé et encres de couleurs, 9,4 x 8 cm ; page 26 x 35 cm, Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris © Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

Victor Hugo, L’Homme épié,
vers 1854, Plume et lavis d’encre brune, papier vélin, 26,5 x 20,5 cm, Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris © Maisons de Victor Hugo / Roger-Viollet

Robert Desnos, Mort d’André Breton (peinture médiumnique),
vers 1922-1923 Huile sur toile, 46 x 55 cm, collection particulière © Gérard Leyris/Ville de Paris.

Sans titre (Femmes et monstres),
s. d., Crayon sur papier, 38 x 51 cm,
collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne © Claude Bornand


Entrée des médiums
Spiritisme et art de Hugo à Breton
Commissaires: Gérard Audinet et Jérôme Godeau


6, place des Vosges
75004 Paris

From 18 October 2012 to 20 January 2013
Open to the public from tuesday to sunday
Close Monday
Opening hour 10am to 6pm