Sunday, 20 December 2015

Tintin at Christmas

Tintin is in London for Christmas.

Picture of Tintin and Snowy in foreground wiht teapot and teacup, man watching from window in background

Somerset House* has opened a window on one of the world’s best-known comic characters and his Belgian creator Hergé (Georges Remi). Belgium's Hergé Museum helped mount this fascinating exhibition with materials from its archives. A novel creative approach brings Tintin to life for visitors.

As soon as you walk into the exhibition, you are sucked into Hergé’s comic world. The walls are painted with his famous characters and scenes. The French-speaking world views comics as the 9th art.

Pic of Tintin paintings on gallery wall at Somerset House, London
Art gallery approach to the Tintin exhibition

Cartoons do not have the same status in the English-speaking world. The art gallery approach takes you by surprise. The characters are so ingrained into Belgian life that you find scenes depicted on the sides of buildings.

Hergé liked to use windows as story-telling devices. A porthole famously introduced Tintin to Captain Haddock. The exhibition recreates this feel by covering the windows with comic scenes (see  below).

Cartoon pic of Tintin covering window
Tintin at the window

I loved the clever use of the fireplace. Both Tintin and Snowy (Milou in French) are covered in soot.

Pic of fireplace used to comic effect in exhibition
A sooty Snowy (Milou) in the fireplace with Tintin alongside

As a linguist, it was great to find an exhibition in London with information in more than one language. British exhibitions are usually embarrassingly monolingual and often fail to cater for foreign visitors. A number of French-speaking visitors were present during my visit.

There are fascinating little insights and pictures scattered throughout the exhibition. I smiled at the comment from the young Hergé’s parents. They considered that their son was only well-behaved with a pencil in his hand.

An observation from Hergé reminds us of French novelist Gustave Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary, that’s me!”. While others might recreate his characters, only Hergé himself could give life to Tintin, Haddock, Calculus, etc. As Hergé said:

“They are my eyes, my senses, my lungs, my heart and soul”

Two scenes are particularly appropriate for this time of year. With them, Anglicity wishes all readers a Merry Christmas...

Pic of Tintin characters with Merry Christmas banner in French
Merry Christmas and long live the yeti!
Pic of Tintin characters with Happy New Year banner
Characters with New Year banner, Tintin with long live peace

... and a Happy New Year!

Somerset House* is a cultural centre in the heart of London. Its famous courtyard fountains have featured in films. You can still catch the Tintin exhibition there until 31st January 2016. Alternatively, you can visit the thought-provoking Big Bang Data exhibition until 28th February 2016. There is even ice skating there until 10th January 2016.

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