To start this review off, unfortunately I wasn’t able to take pictures while in Somerset House. However, knowing that the wonderful world of the web probably has quality pictures of this exhibition, I’ll let it slide.
For those of you who are not familiar with Hergé’s masterpiece, Tintin is a chain of comics that was formed by Cartoon Illustrator; Georges Remit, who went under the artistic alter ego Hergé. The story follows the activities of a Belgian reporter and his dog, set during the mid-20th century. As the series went on, more of the iconic Tintin cast were added including Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus.
There was no basic setting for Tintin since Hergé would send him on all kinds of crazy getaways. From Belgium, to Egypt, to India, to The U.K., Tintin had no problem going on expeditions around the world on a regular basis to help fuel his reporting stories when he arrives back home.
With the style of illustration used for Tintin has an crystal-clear visual look to it, as compared to more westernized graphic novels. It’s not heavy in detail, but it’s not light either.
Like Goldilocks would say “It’s… just right!”
There is just enough information on Tintin comics to clearly see what’s going on, and there is ALOT that happens in Tintin. Hergé’s masterpiece celebrates this in a small, space of 3 rooms in the Somerset House.
Like I mentioned before, the ‘Tintin’ style of illustration is clean and straightforward, but the visuals get to the point. That is the reason why it was so successful back in its day when its first few issues were in black and white. Not to say that the colour issues didn’t take away any of that synergy. In fact, the colour helps to sharpen the general theme of the characters. Tintin, for example now has an Noir-based outlook with his coloured hat and coat, which helps the reader develop an image of the timeframe Tintin takes place in. You can just about see an evolution of this from how the gallery is organized.
Each of the 3 rooms contains selections of particular pages form different issues, along with a 3D model to summarise everything that is displayed in that room. (‘An effective way of using the space’ if you ask me). Sure, the 3D work wasn’t created by Hergé entirely, but it does help to reinforce, the world that Tintin and lives in. In addition the model can also be used as a strong reference point since the pages displayed around the room directly correspond with the piece.
As you travel through the rooms, the space does take you on a chronological journey across some of Hergé’s best instalments like ‘Cigars of the Pharaoh’, ‘The secret of the Unicorn’ (which recently got a film adaptation by Steven Spielberg), the ‘Castafiore Emerald’ and the most recent, unpublished instalment, ‘Tintin and Alpha-Art’.
Of course there is small features in between like the display of tinting looking through the window or more notably, the large image of tinting covered in smoke. With the controversy of Afro-Caribbean portrayal that surrounds this image, it doesn’t bother me at all. You can only do so much with smoke on a black and white layout.
For long-time fans of the series, this gallery is a trip down memory lane, reliving their adventures with the report or and his companion once again. For me, it does clear my perception upon the Belgian reporter that never seems to pay for travel. I may not know Tinting is well as some, but this gallery has helped formed a solid foundation as to who tinting, what he’s about and where he plans to go next.
Photography by: Tom Howells