Jacques Henri Lartigue
Born in Courbevoie to a wealthy family, he started taking photographs when he was 7, 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, and climbing the Eiffel Tower. 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, Louis Paulhan and Roland Garros, and the tennis player Suzanne Lenglen at the French Open tennis 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 film in 2¼” 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 Art in New York, who in turn arranged an exhibition of his work at the museum.
From this, there was a photo spread in Life magazine in 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'Estaing to 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. He was rewarded with his first French retrospective at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs at 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. He received for this book a mention at the Rencontres d'Arles Book Award in 1971. Next year he was the festival's guest of honour. An evening screening was presented by Michel Tournier " "Jacques-Henri Lartigue & Jeanloup Sieff" . In 1974, his work was included in the group exhibitiion " Filleuls et parrains". The movie "Lartigue, année 90", by François Reichenbach is shown in 1984. At the same time his work "Les 6 x 13 de Jacques-Henri Lartigue" is exhibited in the festival. In 1994, "J.-H. Lartigue, l'amateur de rêve" by Patrick Roegiers, was one of the evening screening, and a last exhibition is presented: "Lartigue a cent ans".
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 Picasso and the artist-playwright-filmmaker Jean Cocteau. He also worked on the sets of the film-makers Jacques Feyder, Abel Gance, Robert Bresson, François Truffaut and 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, a painter and a noted entomologist specialising in butterflies, is patron of a museum[vague] in St. Tropez which, alongside paintings and souvenirs of his father, contains an example of every French diurnal butterfly.
American director Wes Anderson is a fan of Lartigue's work, and has referenced it in his films. A shot in Rushmore is based on one of his photographs , and Lartigue's likeness was the basis for the portrait of Lord Mandrake in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
- Jacques Henri Lartigue Donation
- BBC documentary including an example of Lartigue photographing his cousin 'flying'.
- Jacques Henri Lartigue's Portfolio at ArtPages (126 photos)
- Jacques Henri Lartigue's Portfolio at Photography-now