PRINT December 2013

Branden W. Joseph

Victor Hugo, Ruines de Gros-Nez, ou l’Ogive (Ruins of Grosnez, or the Ogive), 1854–55, ink and charcoal on paper, 13 3/4 x 8 5/8".

THE FIRST WORK ENCOUNTERED in the exhibition “Entrée des médiums: Spiritisme et art de Hugo à Breton” was Honoré Daumier’s lithographic suite La Fluidomanie, 1853, which satirizes the vogue for the paranormal phenomenon of table turning. Ascending the staircase of the Maison de Victor Hugo, past Daumier’s biting caricatures of attempts to make furniture spin, dance, and talk, brought to mind Karl Marx’s allusion to the craze in his evocation of a table that, as a commodity, “stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than if it were to begin dancing of its own free will.”1 The virtual juxta-position of Daumier’s irony and Marx’s analysis proved an ideal introduction to an exhibition that approached nineteenth-century occultism and its artistic legacies from a determinately skeptical and secular perspective.

The exhibition’s first

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