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March 14, 2021

Stunning Black and White Photographs Captured the Spirit of Early 20th Century Athletics

Jacques Henri Lartigue was fascinated by the ascent of sport in the early 20th century as a fashionable pastime for the middle classes, and was himself a keen sportsman. Lartigue’s entirely unposed photographs, presented album-style in this gorgeous, luxurious and delightful volume, capture both the joyous exuberance of amateur sports––racing, skiing, tennis, gymnastics, hang gliding––and the particular character of its popularity in the first half of the 20th century.

Lartigue is an absolute master at conveying the dynamism of the human body at play––the peculiar shapes it can contort into, and the gestures that can express anything from easy nonchalance to fierce focus. These photographs also serve as a historical catalogue of the paraphernalia and smart casual clothing associated with each sport.

Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894–1986) was a French photographer and painter, most famous for his photographs of the leisure activities of France’s middle and upper classes. An avid photographer from the age of seven, Lartigue gained fame for his photo albums, which provide a comprehensive chronicle of the twentieth century in France and abroad, and for his official portraits.

My nanny Dudu, 40, on rue Cortambert in Paris, 1904.

Oléo, Rouzat, August 1908.

The ZYX24 takes off while Piroux, Zissou, Georges, Louis, Dédé and Robert make there attempt as well in Rouzat, September 1910.

Robert, the lightest, is chosen to test-fly the “Pic no. 3” in Rouzat, September 1910.

My cousin Dédé in Rouzat, 1911.

Zissou leans against the wind from Amerigo’s propeller in Buc, Nov. 9, 1911.

Grand Prix de L’Automobile Club de France, 1912.

The great racer Nazzaro signals to Wagner to accelerate, Grand Prix de l’A.C.F., June 26, 1912.

My cousin Simone Roussel in Marly Forest, 1913.

My cousin Simone and Golo in Marly Forest, March 1913.

Charly, Rico and Sim in Rouzat, September 1913.

Training of Suzanne Lenglen, Nice, November 1915.

Malvina in Chamonix, January 1918.

Bibi and Lolo in Paris, 1921.

Cannes, May 1927.

Cannes, May 1927.

Dawn in Hyères, September 1929.

Coco at l’Altana, the Weisswellers’ estate in Antibes, March 1936.

Deauville, June 1938.

World ski-jumping championships in Juan-les-Pins, September 1938.

(Photos: Jacques Henri Lartigue / Ministère de la Culture-France / AAJHL)


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