Jacques-Henri Lartigue [1894-1986], a French photographer with a playful spirit, captured the joie de vivre of the early 20th century through his infectious black-and-white snapshots.
Gifted a camera at seven, Lartigue documented his privileged upbringing, capturing family adventures, fashionable friends, and exhilarating races with an uninhibited eye.
His candid photographs pulsed with spontaneity, freezing laughter mid-air, cars in blur, and children’s joyous abandon.
Though he dabbled in painting, Lartigue found his true voice in photography, documenting not just his own life but the changing times – from early aviation pioneers to the elegance of seaside resorts.
Rediscovered at 69, Lartigue’s work became a nostalgic portal to a bygone era, reminding us of the simple pleasures and unbridled energy of youth, all infused with his charmingly unpolished lens.
Read the full Biography below.
Photography Quotes From Jacques-Henri Lartigue
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Lartigue had a fascination with the burgeoning worlds of automobile racing and aviation. He captured some of the earliest and most dynamic images of car races, air shows, and the first airplanes, documenting the technological advancements and the thrill of speed and flight.
Videos about Jacques-Henri Lartigue
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Besides his photographic work, Lartigue was an avid diarist and painter. He maintained detailed journals that included photographs, sketches, and paintings, offering a comprehensive visual diary of his life and the times he lived in.
Photography Books: Jacques-Henri Lartigue
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Though not widely known as a fashion photographer, Lartigue’s photographs frequently featured the fashion and styles of the day, documenting the elegance and flair of early 20th-century attire. His images of leisure activities, social events, and portraits of his wives and mistresses offer a stylish insight into the fashion trends of his time.
Biography of Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Early Life and a Natural Talent for Photography
Jacques-Henri Lartigue, born on June 13, 1894, in Courbevoie, France, was a prolific French photographer known for his spontaneous photographs of leisure activities in France during the early 20th century.
From a young age, Lartigue showed a keen interest in photography, a passion supported by his affluent family.
He received his first camera at the age of seven. He began documenting the opulent life of the French bourgeoisie, capturing moments of joy, leisure, and the innovations of the Belle Époque.
Education and Early Artistic Pursuits
Though photography remained a lifelong passion, Lartigue was initially trained as a painter.
He attended various art schools, including the Académie Julian in Paris, where he honed his skills in painting and drawing.
Despite his formal art training, photography remained a hobby, largely undocumented and unknown to the public and critics during his early years.
Photographic Diary and Method
Lartigue’s photography is characterized by its candidness and vitality. He meticulously maintained photographic diaries from the age of eight, documenting every aspect of his daily life and the lives of those around him.
His method of capturing fleeting moments—children at play, automobile races, aviation, family outings, and the fashion of the times—offered a unique glimpse into the leisurely lifestyle of his social class.
Recognition and Late Fame
It wasn’t until the 1960s that Lartigue’s photography gained significant recognition.
At the age of 69, his work was discovered by Charles Rado of the Rapho agency, who introduced it to John Szarkowski, then the Director of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. In 1963, MoMA presented Lartigue’s first solo exhibition, marking the beginning of his international acclaim.
This exhibition showcased his remarkable ability to capture the essence of the Belle Époque and the interwar years with spontaneity, elegance, and a light-heartedness that contrasted with the formal conventions of photography of his time.
Late Career and Contributions
Following his discovery, Lartigue continued to photograph, but now with the recognition of the art world.
He also began to receive commissions from international magazines such as “Life” and “Vogue,” allowing his work to reach a broader audience.
Despite this late fame, Lartigue remained humble and dedicated to his art, continuing to document his life and surroundings with the same enthusiasm and joy he had shown since childhood.
Legacy and Impact
Lartigue passed away on September 12, 1986, leaving behind an extensive body of work that provides a vivid, personal chronicle of the 20th century.
His archives, donated to the French state, include over 100,000 photographs, 7,000 diary pages, and 1,500 paintings. Lartigue’s work has been celebrated in numerous exhibitions worldwide and continues to inspire photographers with its whimsical and buoyant perspective.
Lartigue’s legacy is that of a photographer who captured the beauty and fleeting moments of everyday life with a genuine love and curiosity. His work transcends the documentary, offering an artful and affectionate view of his world.
His ability to convey the joy and dynamism of life has cemented his place as one of the most beloved photographers of the 20th century.