Valentine studied painting in Paris, and in 1919 married French artist Jean Hugo (1894–1984), great-grandson of Victor Hugo. She collaborated with him on ballet designs including Les mariés de la tour Eiffel (1921), and in 1926 executed 24 wood engravings after maquettes by Jean Hugo for Jean Cocteau's production of Roméo et Juliette.
She met the surrealists around 1928 and actively participated in the movement between 1930 and 1936.
Several of her illustrations are:
- Comte de Lautréamont's Les Chants de Maldoror (1933)
- Achim von Arnim's Contes bizarres (1933)
- Arthur Rimbaud's Les Poètes de sept ans (1939)
- Paul Éluard's Les Animaux et leurs hommes (1937)
- Roger Peyrefitte's Les amitiés particulières (1946)
A retrospective exhibition of her work was held at the Centre Culturel Thibaud de Champagne, Troyes, in 1977.
Other exhibitions of her work have been at: Tenerife (1935), Copenhagen (1935), New York (1937), Tokyo (1937).
- "Valentine Hugo: An Inventory of Her Papers in the Carlton Lake Collection". Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
- Lake, Carlton (1990). Confessions of a Literary Archaeologist. New York: New Directions. p. 90. ISBN 0-8112-1130-4.
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