Auguste Vacquerie

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Auguste Vacquerie (1819-1895) was a French journalist and man of letters. After a classical education, he turned to critique and journalism. He co-founded in Paris the political newspaper L’Évènement, with Paul Meurice, his good friend from College Charlemagne, Charles, and François-Vic- tor Hugo. On the 2nd of December 1851, threatened as a republican and opponent to Napoleon’s dictatorial regime, he left France. Later he moved to Saint-Helier, Jersey Island, with the two Adeles, the wife and daughter of Victor Hugo, who joined them in August 1852. They stayed there till October 31 1855, when they had to move to Saint-Peter-Port, Guernsey Island. In Jersey, Vacquerie had to adjust to his new condition of exile, as well as the Hugo family. Far away from his busy social life dedicated to political and journalistic activities, he mainly turned to literature. But along with Victor Hugo, Charles and François-Victor, he was part of the Jersey et l’Archipel de la Manche book, a project launched by Victor Hugo, supposedly in two volumes. The first one, rather inexpensive, included poetry writ- ten by Victor Hugo himself. The second volume, more luxurious, was to include texts on Jersey’s history and institutions, and photographs taken by the Hugos sons and Vacquerie. For him, this book was a rather basic work, far from the interest he had at this time in theatre plays. He hoped it would be an opportunity to make money quickly. Vacquerie greatly admired Delacroix aesthetic and was influenced by the latter’s concept of photography. Vacquerie mostly worked with negatives on paper, which offered more delicate contours. Yet, he used glass plates as well. Positives were printed on salted paper, a technique he seems to have learnt from Charles Hugo. Not satisfied with his first attempts, he worked hard on improving his technical skills, as witnessed by letters to his friend Paul Meurice or to his family (see unpublished letters to his mother, sister (Mrs Lefèvre) and nephew Ernest Lefèvre, kept at Musée Victor-Hugo at Villequier).

Auguste Vacquerie usually used small size prints (roughly 10 × 7 cm.), organizing his pictures with great attention to harmony, according to curves, light and shadow balances. Although it is hard to discern Charles Hugo’s or Auguste Vacquerie’s authorship when not clearly established, Vacquerie’s portraits end-up as a remarkable set.

Beside Victor Hugo’s portraits, he shot pictures of many exiled people there (like the Le Flô children or Augustine Allix) or visiting friends (Paul Meurice and his wife) that the corresponding French colony in Jersey still looks very vivid [1].