Jacques-Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) took his first photograph in 1900 at the age of six. Born into privilege, Lartigue's father was a banker, and the family belonged to the upper French bourgeoisie. Lartigue transfixed the delightful life of the pre-war upper classes with his fleeting visions and a passionate devotion to the pursuit of joy.
"I have never taken a picture for any other reason than that at that moment it made me happy to do so."
- Jacques Henri Lartigue
All the excitement and allure of the last days of the belle époque are epitomised in Lartigue’s photographs, and he is known for his playful presentation of friends, family and French society at leisure. Lartigue's photographs of sun-drenched holidays on the French Riviera between the Wars crystallise the image of a glamorous era. A dashing figure himself, Lartigue turned his camera on the supremely elegant women who surrounded him: Bibi (his first wife), Florette, and the mysterious Renée Perle.
Lartigue’s photographic work remained undiscovered until 1962 when a chance meeting with John Szarkowski led to a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1963. The importance of the work was immediately recognized, and numerous exhibitions and publications followed. Free of any influence, Lartigue was hailed by his friend Richard Avedon as "the most deceptively simple and penetrating photographer”.