Jacques Henri Lartigue’s true passion

Moi au tennis, self portrait by Jacques Henri Lartigue

Photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue died in 1986. His late passion at the time, was to  paint multicolor flowers and his last famous picture was the official portrait of Valéry Giscard d’Estaing when he was elected President of France. Seven years before he died, he gave his whole archives, 100 000 photographs and 1 500 paintings to the French State who is in charge through «Donation Jacques Henri Lartigue », of keeping his image and name alive. This association exhibits and sells modern prints from time to time.

Suzanne Lenglen, Nice, May 1921

And Véronique de Folin is showing a series of his tennis photographs in her delightful little gallery, “Le Voleur d’Images”, directly across the street from Hôtel Saint Simon in the seventh. The exhibition is called « En vol », flying, for all the crazy shots of tennis players running in the air, including a self portrait of Lartigue who was a keen tennis and golf player. During the two weeks when Roland Garros, the French Open overwhelms Paris life, the show is very timely. Especially since one of the courts is named after Suzanne Lenglen.

Lacoste and Borotra winning the doubles, Championnats internationaux at the Racing Club de France, Paris, 9 to 13 June 1926

Born in 1894 in a wealthy family, he was given a camera at age 8 by his father. His career was always spent painting and photographing but also reproducing in detailed notebooks, his picture taking, the weather that day and his travelling. A great lover of women, he married composer and conductor André Messager’s daughter, Madeleine, and later kept searching for the right muse until he found Renée and Florette. The result is a series of fabulous and sexy portraits of them  in the mountains, all around the world or in Biarritz.

Renée in Biarritz, 1930

As a true dandy of the twenties, Jacques Henri Lartigue concentrated on fast cars, gliders, bicycles and boats, a speed that he loved catching everywhere with his camera. Suzanne Lenglen a young lady tennis player whom he met in Nice in 1914 when she was 15, ravishes him. She became the youngest clay court World champion that year in Saint Cloud and ended up winning Wimbledon six times.  She also introduced the wear of shorter tennis skirts in the twenties. There are different portraits of her playing when she became the World champion.

His professional career really took off late in life when John Szarkowski, successor of Edward Steichen as curator of photography at MoMa, dedicated a large exhibition to his work in 1963. Life magazine subsequently published his photographs in the issue devoted to John F. Kennedy’s death. He became worldwide famous instantly. Yet his photographs are not as expensive as some of his contemporaries’. Maybe because he always practiced his art in a dilettante way?

Prints range from 1 300€ to 3 000€ and the exhibition is open till September 15, 9 rue de Saint Simon, Paris 7

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