The son of a furniture manufacturer in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, Hugnet borrowed tables and chairs from his father for the International Exhibition of Surrealism, in 1938, in Paris. Hugnet discovered poetry through Max Jacob, a friend of his mother. He wrote the script for an avant-garde film, La Perle screened at the Studio des Ursulines in 1929, and wrote The Dada Spirit in Painting with the assistance of Tristan Tzara, who introduced him to André Breton in 1932. His Petite Anthologie poétique du Surréalisme (1934) immediately made him an effective militant for the movement. Hugnet was first an adept of what his close friend Paul Éluard called "the physics of poetry," that is, artistic bibliophilia. He opened a bookbinding atelier, Le Livre-Objet, and for his booklets of poems chose illustrations by artist friends, who perfectly reinforced his metaphors. Dalí's frontispiece for Onan, and Oscar Dominguez's for La Hampe de l’imaginaire truly merge with Hugnet's poetry. In his collages he preferred to express a surrealist eroticism, as if following Max Ernst's pronouncement: "A woman's nudity is wiser than a philosopher's wisdom." From his first collage in 1932, to his last in 1971, everyday situations are rendered compelling by lasciviously posed women in the nude or in revealing negligees. Hugnet also invented the poem-collage, which combined bits of text cut from newspapers with fragments of magazine illustrations to compose a speaking image. His collection of poem-collages, La Septieme Face du dé (1936), was an astounding achievement, and was further enhanced with a cover by Marcel Duchamp. During the war, in December 1939, he founded a surrealist review, L'Usage de la Parole, which was interrupted after the third issue, in April 1940. During the Occupation he had a bookstore on the Boulevard du Montparnasse and held forth at the restaurant Le Catalan on the Rue des Grands-Augustins, where his guests improvised drawings on the tablecloths (exhibited in April 1947). Hugnet held a show of his graphic works in 1954 at Galerie Furstenberg, and in 1969 published a photomontage novel, Huit jours à Trébaumec, "a holiday diary adorned with 82 photographs by the author," with an accompanying handwritten text. The retrospective Les Pérégrinations de Georges Hugnet, at the Centre Georges-Pompidou in 1978, was a revelation, and enabled the public to discover this magical poet's many innovations in the fields of collage, photomontage and decalcomania.
Born 1906 in Paris; died 1974 in Saint-Martin-de Ré, France.