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JACQUES-HENRI LARTIGUE

Jacques Henri Lartigue was unknown as a photographer until 1963, when, at 69 years old, his work was shown for the first time in a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Much to his surprise, he quickly became one of the twentieth century’s most famous photographers. Jacques Lartigue was introduced to photography when his father gave him his first camera at eight years old. From then on, Jacques recorded his childhood, from automobile outings and family holidays to inventions by his older brother Maurice. But young Jacques, acutely aware of the evanescence of life, worried that photographs were not enough to resist the passing of time. How could images taken in just a few seconds convey and retain all the beauty and wonder around him? Along with his photography, he began keeping a diary, and continued to do so throughout his life. He took up drawing and painting in 1915. After briefly attending the Julian Academy in Paris, he became a professional painter, exhibiting his work from 1922 on in Paris and the south of France. In the early 1950s, while pursuing his painting career, he also began to receive some recognition as a photographer. In 1962, Lartigue stopped in New York during travels, where he met with Charles Rado, founder of the photo agency Rapho. After seeing Lartigue’s photographs, Rado introduced him to John Szarkowski, the newly appointed director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art. Szarkowski was so impressed that the following year, he organized the first-ever exhibition of Lartigue’s work. A retrospective of Lartigue’s photographs was held in Paris’ decorative arts museum, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, in 1975—the year after the French president, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, asked him to take his official portrait. He continued making art until his death in Nice on September 12, 1986, at the age of 92, and left behind more than 100,000 photographs, 7,000 diary pages and 1,500 paintings.