As a young boy, Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986) set about passionately recording his life in photographs, first documenting his domestic circle and later capturing the auto races, air shows, and fashionable watering holes of the Belle Époque. His images have so bewitched modern viewers that even scholars have failed to see them clearly.
In Jacques Henri Lartigue: The Invention of an Artist, Kevin Moore puts to rest the long-held myth of Lartigue as a naïve boy genius whose creations were based on instinct alone. Moore begins by exploring the milieu in which Lartigue became a photographer, examining his father's crucial role in teaching him the latest techniques as well as the larger context of the turn-of-the-century craze for amateur photography.
Two events brought Lartigue before the public eye in America and created the Lartigue myth: In the summer of 1963, the first exhibition of Lartigue's work in the United States was held at the Museum of Modern Art, which hailed him as an important modernist photographer, a forerunner of the art-documentary style of the 1960s. That fall, Life magazine published a feature presenting his work as an optimistic and sentimental prologue to World War I. Both treatments portrayed him as a naïve genius and Lartigue happily participated in shaping this new persona.
In Jacques Henri Lartigue: The Invention of an Artist, Moore successfully challenges the Lartigue myth using examples from popular magazines and the cinema. Illustrated with more than fifty of Lartigue's photographs and drawings as well as press imagery from the period, the book offers a radical reassessment of the photographer and his work.
"Moore delves revealingly into the personal and cultural context of Lartigue's work and its 'rediscovery,' and he writes well enough to make this complex story engrossing."--Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Chronicle
"This is not a dry scholarly text, but an interesting account of the shaping of an art career and the strong influences of the artist's visual culture."--Cheryl Shugars, Philadelphia Inquirerer
"An enthralling construction and deconstruction of an artist's life."--Choice
"A sophisticated, clearly written and argumentative book. . . . As Moore convincingly argues, Szarkowski's promotion of Lartigue coincided with the curator's early attempts to validate photography as an art whose formal qualities were derived not from painting or other 'synthetic' mediums but from its own 'analytic' traditions of vernacular and commercial practice."--Andy Grundberg, Art in America
"This book places Lartigue's work in a context that is unknown to the English-speaking world. The breadth of sources and their use is most impressive. Jacques Henri Lartigue makes an important contribution to the history of photography and will bring about a complete reassessment of Lartigue and his work."--Marta Braun, Ryerson University
"Moore's ideas are well expressed and well documented. He has combed through sports, fashion and camera magazines and come up with the original sources for Lartigue's supposedly naïve, primitive, childlike vision. Interesting and often amusing, this book adds much to our knowledge of this artist and our own visual culture . . . and it is also a good read."--Shelley Rice, New York University
Table of Contents:
INTRODUCTION--Lartigue's Invention 7
FORMATION: lartigue as Amateur, 1894-1922
Chapter One: Amateur Photography 17
Chapter Two: Sport and fashion 71
Chapter Three: Cinema 129
TRANSFORMATION: Lartigue as Artist, 1963-1979
Chapter Four: Lartigue at MoMa 163
Chapter Five: Lartigue after MoMa 195
Appendix A: Key to names of Lartigue's Family, Friends, and Pets 218
Appendix B: 1963 MoMa Exhibition Checklist 219
Photography Credits 272
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