Jacques Henri Lartigue

Throughout the XXth century, Jacques Henri Lartigue has set up a subtle and elegant work, tinged with an unfailing passion for “life, this wonderful thing that dances, jumps, flies, laughs…”. Tuned with his times, he was found of all kind of mechanical inventions: planes, cars, etc. But more than anything, Lartigue worshiped speed, its most elusive element.

Mesmerized by tennis, his favorite sport by far, Lartigue is thrilled by the voluptuous sensations of “practicing a fast sport”, of “living in the fantastic country of the atoms of seconds”. Relentlessly, he shoots Suzanne Lenglen, the young tennis player he nicknamed “the phenomenon”. Already the French champion at the early age of 14, young Suzanne is about to become, in the course of the following year, the youngest world champion. Winning the Wimbledon tennis tournament 6 times in a row (1919/1926) without losing one set, “the Divine” (as she is called) is also a sophisticated lady, dressed by the French couturier Jean Patou, who reached eternal fame when shot by Jacques Henri Lartigue on the courts. Elegance, grace, feelings of lightness and taking flight literally show through the plates of the other great tennis players of their time, such as Lacoste and Borotra (“the bounding Basque”), two of the four Musketeers of the glorious French team. A wind of freedom blows on clay courts !

Set in a world where the weather was invariably “Beautiful” or “Very Beautiful” and where “it never rained”, as liked to say his best friend and greatest fan the photographer Richard Avedon. Jacques Henri Lartigue tirelessly seeked a tiny instant of eternity: “My passion is to catch a wonderful moment that flows in half a second”1.

Moi (Lartigue), Rouzat, septembre 1920


1. Excerpt of a conversation between Jacques Henri Lartigue and Hervé Guibert, Le Monde, January 24th, 1985