- Jacques Henri Lartigue
Courbevoie(a city outside of Paris) to a wealthy family, he is most famous for his stunning photos of automobile races, planes and fashionable Parisian women from the turn of the century.
He started taking photos when he was 6, his subject matter being primarily his own life and the people and activities in it. As a child he photographed his friends and family at play – running and jumping, racing wheeled soap boxes, building kites, gliders and aeroplanes, climbing the Eiffel Tower and so on. He also photographed many famous sporting events, including automobile races such as the Coupe Gordon Bennett and the
French Grand Prix, early flights by aviation pioneers including Gabriel Voisin, Louis Blériot, and Roland Garros, and tennis players such as Suzanne Lenglenat the French Opentennis championships.
Although little seen in that format, many of his earliest and most famous photographs were originally taken in stereo, but he also produced vast numbers of images in all formats and media including glass plates in various sizes, some of the earliest
autochromes, and of course film in 2 1/4” square and 35mm. His greatest achievement was his set of around 120 huge photograph albums, which compose the finest visual autobiography ever produced.While he sold a few photographs in his youth, mainly to sporting magazines such as "La Vie au Grand Air", in middle age he concentrated on his painting, and it was through this that he earned his living, although he maintained written and photographic journals throughout his life. Only when he was 69 were his boyhood photographs serendipitously discovered by Charles Rado of the Rapho agency, who introduced him to John Szarkowski, then curator of the Museum of Modern Artin New York, who in turn arranged an exhibition of his work at the museum.
From this, there was a photo spread in
Life magazinein 1963, coincidentally in the issue which commemorated the death of John Kennedy, ensuring the widest possible audience for his pictures.
By then as he received stints for fashion magazines, he was famous in other countries other than his native France, when until 1974 he was commissioned by the newly elected President of France
Valéry Giscard d'Estaingto shoot an official portrait photograph. The result was a simple photo of him without the use of lighting utilising the national flag as a background. [http://www.profotos.com/education/referencedesk/masters/masters/jacqueshenrilartigue/jacqueshenrilartigue.shtml Profotos - Jacques Henri Lartigue] ] He was rewarded with his first French retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifsat the following year and had more commissions from fashion and decoration magazines flooding in for the rest of his life.
His first book, "Diary of a Century" was published soon afterwards in collaboration with
Richard Avedon, and from then on innumerable books and exhibitions throughout the world have featured Lartigue's photographs. He continued taking photographs throughout the last three decades of his life, finally achieving the commercial success that had previously evaded this rather unworldly man.
Although best known as a photographer, Lartigue was a capable if not especially gifted painter and showed in the official salons in Paris and in the south of France from 1922 on. He was friends with a wide selection of literary and artistic celebrities including the playwright
Sacha Guitry, the singer Yvonne Printemps, the painters Kees van Dongen, Pablo Picassoand the artist-playwright-filmmaker Jean Cocteau. He also worked on the sets of the film-makers Jacques Feyder, Abel Gance, Robert Bresson, François Truffautand Federico Fellini, and many of these celebrities became the subject of his photographs. Lartigue, however, photographed everyone he came in contact with, his most frequent muses being his three wives, and his mistress of the early 1930s, the Romanian model Renée Perle.
His son, Dany Lartigue, as well as being a painter, is a noted entomologist specialising in butterflies, and is patron of a museum in
St. Tropezwhich, alongside paintings and souvenirs of his father, contains an example of every French diurnal butterfly.
Wes Andersonis a fan of Lartigue's work, and has referenced it in his films. A shot in "Rushmore" is based on one of his photographs [http://www.lartigue.org/img/mix/chronologie/chrono1905.gif] , and Lartigue's likeness was the basis for the portrait of Lord Mandrake in " The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou".
* [http://www.lartigue.org/indexus.html Jacques Henri Lartigue Donation]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/photography/genius/gallery/lartigue.shtml BBC documentary] including an example of Lartigue photographing his sister 'flying'.
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