Jacques-Henri Lartigue

Jacques-Henri Lartigue Biography Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) was born in Courbevoie, France, but he grew up in Paris. His father, a businessman and passionate amateur photographer, gave him his first camera at the age of seven. He was very quickly attracted by movement and, after mastering the technique, took his first ‘snapshots’ of tennis, swimming, bobsledding, and other games. From that point forward, Lartigue constantly took photos as a passion in his childhood, from automobile excursions and family holidays to crazy inventions by his older brother, Maurice. Born into wealth, the two brothers were fascinated by cars, aviation, and sports currently in vogue. As the popularity of these things grew, anyone could find the pair at the latest cross-country race, the 24 hours at LeMans, the Tour de France, and tennis. Lartigue used his camera to document every sporting event he attended, as if he was afraid to miss something. As he grew out of childhood, he continued to frequent sporting events, participating in and recording such elite leisure activities as skiing, skating, tennis or golf. He also painted and was a fashion photographer for some time. Lartigue became fascinated by advances in film technology in the early 1930s, which many consider to be the Golden Age of French film. In 1932, attracted by the cinema, Lartigue acted as assistant director on the film ‘Le Roi Pausole’ for which he also took the official photographs. Jacques-Henri Lartigue became well known as an illustrator and designer during the years 1935-1950. His most famous work is a black-and-white photo of the artist sitting in front of a mirror to his right with a self-portrait he’s painting on his left. In front of the 20-something photographer is a well-manicured garden sitting above the French countryside. Imagine James Dean, only wealthy and as an up-and-coming artist. As he grew older, the family fortune dried up. Lartigue was forced to make a living, but it perfected his craft. Even as he took on jobs that weren’t related to art, he never gave up his passion for photography and painting. It was on a move with his third wife that Lartigue’s fortunes changed. In 1963, the couple was on the way to Los Angeles, and they stopped over in New York. During that fateful layover, Lartigue’s photography captured the eye of the elite New York art world. Jacques-Henri Lartigue first became known to the American public through an exhibition of photographs organized by John Szarkowski in 1963 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, who saw photographer Jacques-Henri Lartigue as “the precursor of all that is lively and interesting in the middle of the 20th century.” Lartigue’s first public showing of his works came at the tender young age of 69. He had a full 23 years to enjoy his fame before he passed away in 1986.

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