Art //

Books | Lartigue: Life in Color

Never-before-seen color works from the astounding archive of one of the best-known amateur photographers.

Miss Rosenby Miss Rosen
Photo: Brittany, 1965.

In 1963, at the age of 69, French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue walked into the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and was offered an exhibition on the spot. Up until that time, Lartigue was completely unknown within the art world. As an amateur photographer living in a wealthy suburb of Paris, Lartigue took personal photographs of his family, friends, and lovers, as well as the places and things that caught his eye and captured his imagination.

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41RwV6CXuLL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Over the period of eighty years, Lartigue amassed an archive of one hundred thousand photographs and became well known for his black and white work. Now, thirty years after his death in 1986, Lartigue once again receives his due from the photography world: this time in a celebration of his color work. Lartigue: Life in Color (Abrams) presents an intimate volume of the artist’s unknown color works.

Loisy, Paris, October 1964.

Loisy, Paris, October 1964.

Lartigue’s color work represents one-third of his life’s work, with over three hundred thousand photographs made. Reproduced for the first time, the book highlights a sumptuous cross-section of his work, including landscapes of the French countryside through the seasons, the women in his life, his famous friends including Pablo Picasso and Federico Fellini, and scenes from his travels to places including Cuba, Venezuela, Monaco, and across his native France.

The book also features a conversation between Lartigue and Georges Herscher discussing photography, giving us a personal look into the artist’s ideas and process. Lartigue reveals, “I always used the same camera. In fact, I would have really liked to take all my pictures in color and in certain cases, for example, a beautiful garden, I felt it was essential…. I think that black-and-white photography is a form of interpreting reality, whereas, because nature has color, color is what should normally be used. The process of black-and-white photography can yield very fine results, just as there are admirable black-and-white drawings; but truth is still in color.”

Florette's hands, Brie-le-Neflier, June 1961.

Florette’s hands, Brie-le-Neflier, June 1961.

Indeed, the truth that Lartigue reveals is the kind and gentle nature of the world. His sweet, soft sensibilities reveal nature as a kind and gracious spirit, one that invokes the beauty of light and its ability to soothe our frayed nerves and aching soul. In Lartigue’s world, there is compassion, care, and concern. There’s a sense of inner and outer harmony in these photographs that evokes a feeling of peace and tranquility, release and rebirth.

As Lartigue reveals, “If you’re passionate about the beauty of nature, you can’t be scared of being ridiculous for wanting to represent it. The only thing that counts for me is being able to ‘capture’ everything I marvel at.”

Sylvana Empain, Juan-les-Pins, August 1961.

Sylvana Empain, Juan-les-Pins, August 1961.

Photos: © Jacques Henri Lartigue, courtesy of Abrams.

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.