LEONARDO DA VINCI anticipated the Rorschach inkblot test when he advised that artists in need of ideas "should look at certain walls stained with damp." In the 18th century, the artist Alexander Cozens recommended "blot drawings" as points of departure, as did Aubrey Beardsley, who said of his own method: "I make a blot upon the paper and begin to shove the ink around and something comes." In this fascinating, beautifully-produced catalog for an exhibition held in 1998 at the Drawing Center in New York, we learn of comparable practices by the celebrated French novelist Victor Hugo (1802-1885), author of Les Miserables and Notre-Dame de Paris ("The Hunkback of Notre Dame"), who made drawings and painting not only from blots, but from soot, black coffee, mulberry juice, burned onion, cigar ash, fingerprints, matchsticks, stencils, sprays of water, folds, lace and cloth impressions. It is even suggested that Hugo (not Marcel Duchamp) invented "readymade" art because he signed and dated stones found on the beach (not entirely a new practice, however, as explained in "Pictorial Stones" in Jurgis Baltrusaitis' Aberrations). He experimented with lefthandedness, made art in a trance, and drew with a ouija board by attaching a pen to the planchette. More than 100 drawings by Hugo are reproduced, nearly all in color, enchanced by four excellent essays (including a wonderful article by Luc Sante) about the extraordinary mind and methods of a literary genius who Jean Cocteau once characterized as "a madman who pretended to be Victor Hugo."—RB
Ballast Reviews
Reviews from Ballast Quarterly Review
of books, films and other published materials
All reviews are copyright © by Roy R. Behrens  
Florian Rodari, et al., Shadows of a Hand: The Drawings of Victor Hugo (London: Merrell Holbertson / distributed by University of Washington Press, 1998). ISBN 1-85894-050-8.

back Home CAMOUPEDIA: A Compendium of Research on Art, Architecture and Camouflage (2009)
“[It is] worthy of unspoken praise.”
“…it is an essential reference for anyone interested in the subject and its broader context.”
Fast international shipping
From reviews of  CAMOUPEDIA
“[It is] a leading contemporary source book.”
“[It is] an encyclopedic presentation of a vast body of findings in camouflage…[it] opens doors to new frontiers in a number of understudied areas of art and military history.”