Tintin in the house
© Hergé-Moulinsart 2015/Somerset House - Installation image
By ADRIAN TAHOURDIN
"What if I told you that I put my whole life into Tintin?” asked Hergé shortly before he died in 1983. The man who revolutionized the cartoon strip and influenced the work of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol is the subject of a nice little exhibition at Somerset House, Tintin: Hergé’s masterpiece (admission free, until January 31, 2016). There is also a book to accompany the exhibition (published by Rizzoli).
As the publicity claims, the exhibition enables us to step “inside the wonderfully eccentric world of artist-author Hergé and Tintin, his intrepid young reporter” (who, it should be said, never files a report or ages a day across his twenty-four books). The walls of the three rooms replicate the famous pastel-blue and white inside covers of the albums. There are also models of Captain Haddock’s chateau, Moulinsart (Marlinspike Hall in the English edition), and of Tintin’s anonymous apartment in Brussels. Hergé’s interest in architecture and design can be seen in the many precise drawings on display, many of views from windows. As Michael Farr points out in his indispensable Tintin:The complete companion (2001), everything was drawn as close to life as possible, from Bauhaus chairs to ships’ rigging.
The Glengarry of Glasgow was used as a model for the Karaboudjan (from Michael Farr's Tintin: The complete companion)
The last time the cub reporter floated into public consciousness was with the appearance of Steven Spielberg’s shockingly bad computer-animated film The Adventures of Tintin (2011). Spielberg had harboured an ambition to film a Tintin adventure for over three decades and Hergé reckoned that he was the only director “who could ever do Tintin justice” (in the words of Hergé’s biographer Pierre Assouline,"he considered Spielberg a genius"), so disappointment at the result was felt all the more keenly by Tintinophiles. Hergé had agreed to Spielberg’s request for "sole artistic and commercial control of the project", which might explain the ill-judged liberties the director took with the stories. (A superb theatrical version of Hergé’s own favourite Tintin in Tibet, in London in 2006, revealed how adaptable his work can be.)
Meanwhile, Hergé’s star shows no sign of waning: a drawing from Tintin in the Congo sold at auction in Paris recently for €770,000.