A Short Biography of Hergé


This text is drawn from Entretiens avec Hergé, by Numa Sadoul, published by Casterman.

Pictures are from Hergé, by Pierre Assouline, published by Plon.

May 22, 1907 - Born in Etterbeek (district of urban Brussels) as REMI Georges. This name yields, later, the pseudonym R.G.: HERGÉ.

Astrological sign: Gemini, which deeply marks the psychology and the character of the personality. This type is understanding and indulgent, generous but reserved, curious, level-headed, enthusiastic but careful, far-sighted, meticulous in the extreme, open to discussion but not a debater, careful to weight the pros and cons of events...
From his earliest years, his parents have only one way to make him keep quiet: give him a crayon and some paper.

1914 to 1918 - District School No. 3 in Ixelles (another district of Brussels). Georges sketches at the bottom of his notebooks the adventures of a little man grappling with the Germans (who were occupying Belgium). A hero without a name, stories without text. The young Remi was haunted by the idea of the "boy hero"; he read and re-read, sometimes in a loud voice, like an incantation, the short article on Joseph Bara from the Petit Larousse, where an engraving shows the young boy, ordered by the Chouans to shout "Long live the King!," responding with the cry "Long live the Republic!" and falling down, shot dead.

In the scouts
Georges in the scouts, head of the Squirrels patrol.

1918-1919 - School No. 11, preparatory for the Athénée (secondary school). Mediocre pupil during this year.

1920 à 1925 - Georges Remi completes his "modern humanities," i.e., his secondary studies at Saint Boniface school, an archiepiscopal school (the teachers are its priests) in Brussels.
An excellent pupil, almost the first in his class. Except in drawing: never just a passing grade!

1925 - After graduation, Georges joins the daily newspaper Le XXe Siècle (The Twentieth Century) as employee in the subscriptions department.
He continues to supply The Belgian Boy Scout with plates of Totor.

1926 - His parents decide to let him pursue drawing. He begins at Saint-Luc school where, without any indication, he is set in front of a plaster Corinthian marquee... One no longer sees Remi the student at Saint-Luc, the pupil whose obsession was always to draw "the little fellows"!...

1926-1927 - Military service, in the first infantry regiment.
Soldier, then lance corporal, then sergeant Remi still draws Totor; besides, he gives to abbé Desmedt some illustrations for the publications of the Action Catholique (A.C.J.B.).

1927 - Back to the XXe Siècle, where the director, the abbé Norbert Wallez, urges him to read, to educate himself, to cultivate himself. Especially, he trusts him with responsibilities: photography, assistant photoengraver, but also cartoonist. For the supplements of the paper - artistic and literary, feminine, . . - the young Hergé does some lettering, decoration, layout, charts, portraits, illustrations, etc..

In the officeWith Wallez
In the office of the Petit VingtièmeWith the abbé Wallez

1928 - Thursday, November 1st, publication of the first issue of Le Petit Vingtième, which the newspaper will offer to its young readers every week from now on; Hergé is trusted with the entire responsibility by abbé Wallez. In a storyline of a joking editor of the house, named Desmedt like the priest mentioned above, Hergé draws The Adventures of Flup, Nenesse, Pousette and Cochonnet, which does not delight him beyond measure...

At the same time, stumbling upon some newspapers brought from Mexico, he discovers the American comics. Another important discovery: Alain Saint-Ogan and his "Zig et Puce". That year also, marriage engagement to Germaine Kieckens, the secretary of abbé Wallez.

January 10th, 1929 - The debut, in the 11th issue of the Petit Vingtième, of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets: Hergé creates his fictional character in order to escape as script writer of Flup, Nénesse..., and no one complains!

1930 - Thursday, January 23rd: first appearance of "Quick and Flupke."
Thursday, May 8th: triumphant return of Tintin, "coming from Russia," at the North Brussels train station. The reporting of the Petit Vingtième says notably "Tintin and Snowy, celebrated like princes (...) The enormous crowd warmly applauds the speech which Tintin gives from the height of the balcony"... Beneath the photo, one reads "Here we see Mr. Georges Remi (Hergé ), editor-in-chief of the Petit Vingtième...
Also in 1930, the French weekly Coeurs vaillants undertakes the publication of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, but begins it accompanying each frame with a caption. Hergé protests.

1931 - May: Visits Alain Saint-Ogan.
Thursday, July 9th: Tintin returns, not less triumphantly, from the Congo. Enormous crowd in front of the North Brussels train station. Caption of a photo published in Le Petit Vingtième: "Tintin and Snowy welcomed by Quick and Flupke. Ten Congolese accompany them." In other photos, Hergé displays - and he is not the only one - a felt hat with a large ribbon.
Thursday, September 3rd: Filled with African enthusiasms Tintin has already left again, and these are The Adventures of Tintin, Reporter in America. A concern for serious research begins to develop in Hergé, who reads The History of the Red Indians, by Paul Coze.

Back from the Congo
Tintin and Snowy back from the Congo

1932 - marriage of George and Germaine. Until that year, the three first albums of Hergé have been published in the editions of the Petit Vingtième. Since now, it is only Casterman who edits them.
Between Cigars of the Pharaoh (which will be recast in 1954) and The Blue Lotus, a decisive meeting: that of the Chang Chong-Jen from China. In encouraging Hergé to seriously research the countries where he sends his hero, this student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels opens a new world to the artist of Tintin, who begins to practice his profession with a new seriousness.

Hergé with Chang
Hergé with Chang

1935 to 1940 - There follows, in quick and even succession, The Broken Ear, The Black Island, (following a trip to England, the first time that Hergé had preceded Tintin), King Ottokar's Sceptre, Land of the Black Gold. This last episode was interrupted by Hergé's mobilization as a reserve lieutenant; Land of the Black Gold is bluntly postponed a little later by the war.

1940 to 1946 - At the beginning of this time, there is another important meeting: that of Edgar Pierre Jacobs, who will become Hergé's first collaborator and who, notably, will redraw the scenery and the uniforms of King Ottokar's Sceptre.
By the side of his first collaborator, there comes a second, female collaborator: Alice Devos, who will work for Hergé for several years, recasting the page layout, set in a new format but in the colors of the old issues.
The war and its paper restrictions had initiated a revolution in the plan of an issue: Casterman must reduce the Hergé's albums to sixty-two pages, which entails the reduction of the size of the drawings. As just compensation, the albums go from black and white to color. The first album in this style: The Shooting Star (1942).

Edgar P. Jacobs, Jacques van Melkebeke and Hergé in 1944
Edgar P. Jacobs, Jacques van Melkebeke and Hergé in 1944

October 1940 - Hergé is chief editor of the Soir Jeunesse, a supplement to the daily Le Soir, with Jacques Van Melkebebe as principal assistant, a painter, cartoonist, and writer who will later be the first chief editor of the weekly Tintin.
Writing of The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Shooting Star, The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham's Treasure, and The Seven Crystal Balls. In the middle of this last episode the Liberation arrives.
A consequence of the paper shortage, this time from the creative side: being forced to drawing daily "strips," sequences of three or four drawings in Le Soir, proved to be, says Hergé, an excellent lesson in narration. Another important experience, following the Liberation: being put on the index. Accused of having collaborated, Georges Remi is held back from any publishing.

September 26th, 1946 - Birth of the Belgian weekly Tintin and reappearance of Hergé. The first publishing success for Raymond Leblanc. A confirmation or revelation of talents: Jacobs, Laudy, Cuvelier...
Beginning of a triumphal march for another publisher, the publisher of the albums: the editions (in color) of Casterman begin to climb regularly toward a million per year, which they will reach in 1956.

1947 to 1966 - Ten new stories, going from The Seven Crystal Balls (continued in Tintin) to Flight 714, as well as the recasting of Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Black Island.

October 28th, 1948 - Appearance of the French edition of Tintin, published by Georges Dargaud.

1950 - Creation of the Studio Hergé, where little by little as many as a dozen collaborators will gather.

1956 - Beginning of the relationship of Georges and Fanny Vlamynch, colorist at the Studios since 1952.

1959 - Appearance of the first book devoted to Hergé: Le Monde d'Hergé, by Pol Vandromme (Gallimard).

1960 - Georges discovers abstract art and painting at length, which became his central passion.
Intense period of travel: Italy, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, England, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Greece, etc.
The separation is effective between Georges and Germaine.

Work at Studio Hergé, 1964
Work at Studio Hergé, 1964

1971 - First trip to the U.S.A.,where he strikes up friendly relations with the Sioux Indians of Pine Ridge, south Dakota: fifty years later, Hergé gets back in touch with the Indians of his beginnings.

1972 - April: First Congress of the B.D. in New York. The great American cartoonists open their arms to the father of Tintin and give him official homage.
November: Hergé the guest of honor at the eighth Lucques Exhibition of Comics (Italy).

1973 - Hergé winner of the St-Michel Grand Prize at Brussels, for the lifetime achievement.
May: first trip to China, which is the realization of one of Hergé's oldest dreams. Officially invited by the government of Chang Kai-chek since 1939, in thanks for services rendered to the Chinese cause by The Blue Lotus, Hergé can reply to this invitation with only 34 years of delay...

1975 - Ardenne Prize awarded to Hergé in April, on the occasion of the "thirty-six hours of the B.D." of Neufchâteau, Belgian. Appearance of the first version of Entretiens avec Hergé, by Numa Sadoul (Casterman). A second edition appears in 1983.
Divorce of Georges and Germaine.

1976 - Arrival of Tintin and the Picaros: public success, with a welcome mitigated by criticism. Once again, the critics are wrong...
On September 29th, the inauguration of the statue of Tintin and Snowy, produced by Nat neujean and located in Wolwendael Park in Uccle, Brussels.
The same year, Hergé picks up the tracks of Chang Chong-Jen, lost since 1937 since he had returned to China and the war had separated them. Now the Director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Shanghai, he had a friend whose brother was travelling in Brussels. Questioning without cease the Chinese of Belgian, Hergé was bound to discover him... He renewed relations, only by letter, while awaiting a true reunion.

1977 - Hergé receives the ruby red medal of the city of Angoulême, on the occasion of the 4th Exhibition of the B.D. (January). We note in passing that he is president of this Exhibition since its foundation in 1974.
On May 20th, the marriage of Georges and Fanny.

1978 - Promotion to officer grade of the Order of the Crown, in Brussels. Hergé begins to work on a new episode, provisionally titled Tintin and the Counterfeiters..

1979 - The fiftieth anniversary of the creation of Tintin is marked around the world by many celebrations and events. Among others:

  • traveling exhibition "The Imaginary Museum of Tintin";
  • various works, plaques, calendars, etc.;
  • a medal bearing the images of Tintin and of Hergé, engraved by Gondard and struck by the Hôtel de Monnaies, Paris;
  • a Tintin stamp, published by the Belgian post office, on October 1st (as well as various commemorative vignettes published by Tintin).
On January 17th of this same year, Hergé receives a Mickey from Walt Disney Co.. This statuette had never been offered after the death of Disney.

Summer 1980 - First symptoms of Hergé's illness: anemia, great weakness. The leukemia was diagnosed quite late. There begins a long and trying series of regular transfusions for three years.

1981 - Emotional reunion of Georges and Chang, on March 18th, in Brussels. This event encourages a variety of celebrations and publications, and its repercussion is very great.

With Chang, 50 years later
With Chang, 50 years later

1982 - To properly celebrate the 75th anniversary of Georges Remi, the Belgian Society of Astronomy names "Hergé" a small planetoid located by Mars and Jupiter and discovered by the astronomer Sylvain Arend in 1953... the same year when Tintin published Explorers on the Moon!

1983 - March 3rd, Georges Remi dies in the Saint-Luc clinic in Brussels, after a week in a coma.
Appearance of The World of Hergé, by Benoît Peeters (Casterman).

1984 - Steven Spielberg buys an options on the cinematic rights of Tintin.
Debut of the collection L'Oeuvre intégrale d'Hergé (Rombaldi), whose thirteen volumes will appear until 1988.

1986 - Posthumous publication of the complete sketches known from now on as Tintin and the Alph-Art.
Constitution of the Hergé Foundation, run by Fanny Remi.

1988 - August 31st: inauguration of the Stockel station of the Brussels metro, decorated with a double fresco mural in which Hergé had collaborated since the project began in 1982.

Excerpts of an interview of Hergé by Jacques Chancel, for
Radio France's program Radioscopie, January 9th, 1979 (in French).

MP3 files

Pourquoi Tintin?...

Tintin n'a pas de famille...

Si j'ai pris ce pseudonyme...

Vous vous racontiez des histoires?...

Je pense que je ne me singularisais pas...

(concerning the accusations of racism etc.)

Vous êtes content des films qui ont été réalisés?...

Pour quelle cause pourriez-vous l'utiliser?...

On a pu penser un certain moment que nos amis Goscinny et Uderzo...
(concerning Asterix)

Tintin pourrait vous échapper un jour...

Vous écrivez pour qui?...

Hergé c'est Tintin?...


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