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Valentine Hugo, born Valentine Marie Augustine Gross on March 16, 1887, in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France, was a French artist who became deeply immersed in the Surrealist movement. She moved to Paris from Northern France in 1905 and enrolled in L'École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1907.
Hugo began exhibiting her artwork at the Salon of French artists in 1909 and 1911. She attended the Ballet Russes religiously, where she met Jean Cocteau, who introduced her to the Surrealists and collaborated with her on ballet designs in the 1920s. Through her involvement with the Surrealist circle, she became friends and collaborators with the likes of André Breton, Jacqueline Lamba, Pablo Picasso, Paul Éluard, Salvador Dalí, and Max Ernst.
In 1919, she married Jean Hugo, the grandson of French writer Victor Hugo, but they divorced in 1932. Hugo participated in many exquisite corpse games, especially drawings, with other Surrealists, and introduced the use of black paper in many of the works. She continued to create art and design for dance throughout her life.
Hugo's work was included in group exhibitions throughout the 1930s, such as ones at the Bureau of Surrealist Research in 1931, the Surrealist Exhibition in 1933, and the Museum of Modern Art in 1936. She was already an established artist by the 1930s, and her interest in theater, ballet, and film led her to create illustrations and write about dance.
At the onset of World War II, Hugo was living in Paris and remained deeply engaged with the Surrealists. She stayed in France throughout the war, and after it ended, she returned to stage design for dance and continued to create art.
Hugo's key artwork in the Exhibition by 31 Women was "Rêve de 17/1/34" (1934), a drawing whose whereabouts are currently unknown. She produced a small number of paintings, including one of Arthur Rimbaud, which features sparkles embedded in the paint and Rimbaud with a bird sweeping above his head, almost like hair.
Valentine Hugo passed away on her 81st birthday, March 16, 1968, in Paris, France. Her legacy as a pioneering female Surrealist artist lives on, and her contributions to the movement are celebrated and studied worldwide.