See a French Photographer’s Muses, Captured in Color

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Jacque Henri Lartigue's wife, Florette, in Vence, May 1954.Photo: Ministère de la Culture– France/AAJHL

The French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue was 69 when he walked into the Museum of Modern Art, met the young curator John Szarkowski, and was offered an exhibition on the spot. After the museum’s 1963 showcase, the unknown amateur became world-famous: Richard Avedon edited his first book, France’s president commissioned him to take his official portrait, and magazines like Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar hired him to shoot fashion spreads.

Best known for his black-and-white photographs, Lartigue captured his aristocratic family at leisure as well as friends like John F. Kennedy, Picasso, and the director Federico Fellini. Unbeknownst to much of the world, however, was his love for color photography: Of over 100,000 photographs left behind after his death, 30 years ago, a third of his archive was captured in color.

In the new book Lartigue: Life in Colorpublished by Abrams, a trove of previously unseen color photographs showcase the women the photographer loved. Click ahead to see his vivid portraits, including his first wife, Bibi, in Paris, wearing a fur coat and red-stained lips, and his third wife, Florette, who sits with Picasso at a bullfight in Vallauris.