Jacques Henri Lartigue’s one-day trip to meet Picasso at his Cannes mansion in 1955 resulted in more than 100 black-and-white photographs of the artist.
One of these, depicting Picasso topless with a hat and cigarette, is included in a compact exhibition on Lartigue at Oscar Graf in Paris. Featuring fewer than 20 works, it runs until January 27 and celebrates Lartigue’s timeless style, which captured most decades of the 20th century.
Born into a wealthy Parisian family, Lartigue (1894-1986) started taking photographs aged seven, documenting the final days of the Belle Epoque. He photographed members of his family and people on the street, plus sporting events and aviation pioneers, in candid and spontaneous style.
These remain his most prized works: his highest price at auction at more than £50,000 is an image of his cousin splashing into water, achieved at Christie’s in 1999. Though he considered himself a painter primarily, he also worked as a society photographer.
Intimacy and ease
By the time he met Picasso – a day that would fill more than half his ‘1955’ album – he was 57. The pictures from that session have a familiar intimacy and ease, but it might come as a surprise to see such a scene at Oscar Graf, a Paris gallery known for its Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau design pieces.
However, for the gallery, his style was enduring. According to the firm: “While he worked throughout most of the 20th century, he always stayed true to black and white techniques. The works we have selected are a perfect representation of his work, from early posed portraits such as Solange to icons such as The Wave. Lartigue was privileged to document great figures of the century.”
Graf describes the selection as “quite fascinating” with “super provenance”, adding that the 19 original photographs on offer “came directly from the artist’s wife in the late 1990s”. They are offered for prices ranging from €8000-50,000.
Lartigue’s later years are now the stuff of legend. When he was 69, his boyhood snapshots were found and championed by a photography agency. An exhibition of his works was organised by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City and they were published in the pages of Life Magazine.
Lartigue continued to take photographs throughout his later years, achieving commercial success.
Fame has never really left him.
In 2020 two new books about his works were published and his photographs – if not his paintings – appear regularly in exhibitions in the UK and Europe.
Graf’s new Parisian gallery opened in May with the exhibition 1900 Treasures and Icons, followed by visits to TEFAF Maastricht, Masterpiece London and Frieze Masters. He also has offices in London.