‘Tintin : Hergé’s masterpiece’ at the Somerset House – Exhibition review

The new Tintin exhibition opened up last Thursday at the Somerset House. His creator, the Belgian cartoonist Hergé (1907-1983), is one of the most famous cartoonist in the world and his work has been very much celebrated over the years. The exhibition was a collaboration with the Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium).

The description of the exhibition on the Somerset House’s website (2015) promised a visit inside the ‘wonderfully eccentric world’ of Tintin, which sounds like a child’s dream. Indeed, the exhibition was very colourful and quite beautifully decorated with Tintin blue and white striped wallpaper, prints on the walls and very impressive 3D pieces in the center of each room. However the exhibition was quite disappointingly short as it only consisted of three relatively small rooms. It surprised me because after having read the website description I was expecting an endless display of wonders only to find the collection to be a little limited.

The exhibition was arranged in chronological order, starting off with when George Remi aka Hergé was only a little boy. This really allowed us to look at the evolution in Hergé’s artwork , which is what the website suggested we would be able to do. There were many quotes and pictures on the walls, sometimes quite funny, giving us insight into Hergé’s mind and personal life. In that first bit Hergé tells us about what he was like as a child and how he used to always draw in his textbooks, up until his first Tintin publication in 1929. The next wall explored the phase through which he would always draw in black and white and then his first use of colour, looking at some of his prints. Each wall was about a different time period. The exhibition looks at Hergé’s personal life as much as his artwork, and again it just seemed too short to fully cover 50 years of Tintin adventures, not to mention Hergé’s whole lifetime. I think I would have liked to see more drawings, namely excerpts from his sketchbooks and drafts that would have allowed us to see the full extent of his work and his creative process.

The explanatory texts were translated both in French and in English, and I noticed as I progressed through the exhibition that a lot of the people visiting it were french.  It was interesting to hear french as well as reading the signs in french, as if the exhibition was a little french world of its own in the middle of London.

The highlight of the exhibition for me were the 3D pieces, which were the first things I noticed as I walked into each room. Ironically these are also not even Hergé’s own work. Throughout the exhibition there was this whole idea of playing with the notion of ‘windows’, turning a window in a comic into a real window. Beside each 3D piece there was the original drawing that inspired it and it was really fun to see the world of Tintin brought to life in that way. However I do feel like if those centre pieces weren’t there the rooms would be pretty empty.

I think the exhibition is worth going to, as it is fun and has quite beautiful pieces to offer as well as being a nice insight into Hergé’s life, although we are definitely left frustrated that we didn’t get to see more.



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