Monday, August 22, 2011

Lartigue's Ladies

Florette, Paris 1943

There is no doubt that Jacques Henri Lartigue had an excellent eye, he also had an eye for the ladies and I think perhaps a hand and nail fixation...

On December 17th 1919, Lartigue married his first wife Madeleine Messager, he called her Bibi, they had two children together Dani born in 1921 and Veronique born in 1924, sadly she died at only a few months old.  Madeleine and Jacques parted in 1930.
Bibi Paris 1921

Bibi at the Hotel des Alpes, Chamonix, 1920

Bibi on their honeymoon, 1919

From Lartigue's Personal diaries...

January 1920 –

“What am I ? And what am I doing here ? I am a married man – on my honeymoon. I think it must be the funniest thing in the world, me, a married man, on his honeymoon.
Bibi and I go everywhere together … arm in arm. We look at everything; we discover everything”.

“On her loving days Bibi is intelligent, charming and terribly funny. I will cherish forever the first photograph I took of her on our honeymoon.”
“We have a good life …”

“To keep in good shape Bibi exercises every morning with her teacher. I sometimes exercise with her, but that apparently, is disastrous for her concentration. We laugh too much. I don’t understand why Bibi is so concerned about her figure. She tells me she does it for me and that I ought to be flattered. Life is full of excitement, surprises … and best of all, Bibi.”

Bibi, Cannes 1923

1921 –

“I have a son ! He was born on August 23. His name is Dani, and he cries, he screams, he howls … and when Dani finally consents to give his public a vague, resigned smile of concession, everyone is ecstatic: he smiles like an angel”

“Yvonne (Printemps) is one month younger than I, Bibi two years. They are both flowers on the point of opening up to their moment of greatest beauty … so why do I still look like a bunch of green raisins ?” 

1924 –

“Bibi in the last month of her pregnancy evokes an enormous tenderness in me. We are very close … in all senses. It seems to me, strangely enough, that I am waiting with more nervous expectation for this second child than I waited for our first. Bibi is not nervous. Quietly she prepares the room for the baby, irons the curtains, plays with Dani. She is tired … but happy.” 

February 1929 -

“Bibi is near to fainting in my arms.”

“To die on a Sunday. Messager, the always active man. I think about that. I think about a lot of things. My eyes are dry. Don’t I feel any grief ? Bibi weeps over her father … isn’t that enough to make my heart melt ?”

Bibi, Hotel des Alpes, Chamonix 1930

June 1929 -

“I am alone in the studio, my cluttered garret, high up in our house in Neuilly. It’s four o clock in the morning. Through the skylight I can see the whole city (Paris) bathed in the first glow of sunrise. I wonder how many unhappy people there are living in all the thousands of houses ? Am I one of those unhappy people ? 
In a little while, I will go downstairs and lie beside Bibi. But first I must clarify my thoughts. I haven’t been very successful so far. It has been said so many, many times that a betrayed husband is the last person to know and to understand. A betrayed husband ? Me ?
Bibi ! My little Bibi ! Bibi of our happy years ! Would she really betray me ? I realize, of course, that anything, absolutely anything, can happen in a lifetime; that the most improbable crises are always plausible. But this ? Bibi and that poseur ! Bibi, with her lack of patience, her knife-sharp judgments ! Bibi, the daughter of Messager ! But I shouldn’t have forgotten that Bibi is also the daughter of that Louis XV mother with her lace furbelows ! Does Bibi really love this man ? He loves her. Yes ! To him she is the Rolls-Royce he always wanted to have, when all the idiot can afford is a Renault ! I talk, I write, I think. But inside me the chaos continues ! I tell myself lies, and then I try to convince myself that what I just told to myself is the truth. I think: I love Bibi, she is mine. I don’t want to be concerned about anything else. There is a certain kind of suffering you can refuse. I am very sleepy, and I realize that I don’t know anything more than I did a few hours ago.”

Bibi, Megeve, January 1930

July 1929 -

“When I talk feverishly about the need to produce and to create, it really means that I’m in the midst of a crisis. Again I’ve become a spectator, an outsider, which, apparently is the only way I can live through these dramas. I have learned one thing: I should never have trusted our silences. I shouldn’t even have trusted the affectionate conversations we have had, Bibi and I. Our happiness has been assassinated ! We remain friends, we talk without anger, but the words – my words – are artificial. My second self, that cold, phlegmatic creature – my self-appointed referee – chuckles in a corner about my performance in real life.

Bibi arranging flowers, Nice 1920

Bibi and their son Dani, Nice February 1928

1930 -

“I live alone with my fantasies. Perhaps they are the best company a man can have?”
“Paris is almost deserted. The smell of the hot asphalt evokes memories of other summers. And all those memories together form one great big, enormous chaos: love. There are old, marvellous, tender, indescribable memories that I never did, and never could, invite Bibi to share.” 

In 1930 Jacques meets the beautiful Renee Perle, the lady that went on to become his most famous muse, she became his mistress, Renee and Jacques were together for two years.

Paris, March 7, 1930 -
“Half past five at the Embassy. I wait for my “parasol” from last night. I need a whisky. I’m very shy deep down, and ready to be furious if she doesn’t show up. It’s my curiosity that would be most disappointed…
Five thirty-five. There she is! Can it really be her? Ravishing, tall, slim, with a small mouth and full lips, and dark porcelain eyes. She casts aside her fur coat in a gust of warm perfume. We’re going to dance. Mexican? Cuban? Her very small head sits on a very long neck. She is tall; her mouth is at the level of my chin. When we dance my mouth is not far from her mouth. Her hair brushes against both.
“Romanian. My name is Renée P… I was a model at Doeuillet…” Delicious. She takes off her gloves. Long, little girl’s hands. Something in my mind starts dancing at the thought that one day perhaps she would agree to paint the nails of those hands…”

 To see a previous post all about Renee go here

On March 12th 1934 he marries Marcelle Paolucci or 'Coco' as she was known, they divorced in 1942
Coco 1934

Coco in the garden

Coco on the beach, Hendaye 1934

In January 1942 he meets twenty one year old Florette Ormea in Monte Carlo, Jacques was twenty seven years her senior.  They married on August 28th 1945, They remained happily together until Jacques death in 1986, aged 92.
Florette, 1947

Florette, Paris 1944

Florette Paris 1944

Florette, Paris 1944

Florette Paris 1944
Florette Paris, 1944

Florette, Monte Carlo, 1953

Florette Paris 1944

Florette with JFK and a friend, Le Cap d'Antibes 1953

 Florette at Picasso's studio, Cannes, 1955
"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


  1. Thank you so much for putting up all these pictures. I love Lartigue, and have one of his pictures of Renee on my wall, but I had not seen many of these. Esp love Coco on the beach.

  2. Hello:
    Yes, a great many fingers and nails but such absolutely superb images. A wonderful post for which many thanks.

  3. Very interesting post about Lartigue. I did not know much about his personal life and the ladies he fell for. Loved the photos, of course. They all look so good. Wonder if JFK took a liking to Florette ? ;-) I wrote a story about the great Josephine Baker last month. I would love to hear what you think about her... Veronique aka French Girl in Seattle

  4. Truly beautiful. I especially love the bathroom shot.

  5. As ever, beautiful pix and yes, not only does he seem to have an eye for beautiful women, but also a bit of a hand fetish going on.

    Almost every day I sling on as many bracelet and bangles as I can with a big ring and pretend I'm Rene Perle. Only plumper :-)

    Ali x

  6. A very interesting and informative post! Thanks for sharing this - quite a bit I didn't know here.

  7. I LOVE this post. I have the 1934 image of the beach tent at Hendaye in my kitchen, bought at an excellent exhibition of his work some years ago in London. Thank you for giving me information about his private life that I did not know. So pleased that he found a lasting love in the end.

  8. Superb Dash!
    Wasn't Florette a gorgeous creature?

  9. Fabulous Dash!

    I love your people posts. They have so much research.

  10. SO so beautiful - how can you not adore the spectacular, timeless work of Lartigue?! My favorites here are the ones with Coco - so graphic and modern!! Although I always had the impression that Lartigue was a bit of a womanizer, my sympathies were with him over Bibi!! And I think you may be right - look at all those hands and nails!!

  11. Dash, this is absolutely fantastic, thank you so much for this post and for sharing all this, really brightened up my morning. I loved the way you intersperse the photos with the text .. and oh, so fascinating xxx from a very over-excited Blighty

  12. I love these photos of Florette. She was the most touching and charming old lady, when she invited us several times for lunch in her Opio House.
    It was in 1999 and she was 78 years old. She behaved like a young lady.Philippe Metaireau Artiste Peintre , Opio.


Thank you for visiting French Sampler, I hope you come back soon. I love to read your comments and will reply as soon as I can.