Jacques Henri Lartigue

Hayward Gallery

“France’s foremost amateur photographer” was what one rather perceptive magazine journalist called Jacques Henri Lartigue in 1952, in an article revealing to an unsuspecting public “the secret passion of a painter.” It was only in the following years that the already sixtyish Lartigue began practicing a bit of commissioned photojournalism. It would be another decade—before MoMA photography curator John Szarkowski discovered the old man as a “true primitive” for pictures he’d taken as a belle époque adolescent—for the first steps toward his canonization to take place.

What would Lartigue have been without photography? A rentier nullity, a socialite painter of dismal attainments. One critic derided his daubs as products of “a hand undirected by the brain.” All the more miraculous then that the camera allowed him to become so much more than he seemed. This exhibition, first seen at the Centre

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