Sixty

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Renée

1930 by Jacques-Henri Lartigue
Ministère de la Culture-France

Renée was Lartigue’s mistress during the thirties, one of his many muses among his three wives. Most famous for his photography, but also a painter, Lartigue was one of the Paris crowd, friends with Picasso and artist filmmaker Jean Cocteau. The influence of cinema is evident in this portrait – far from still, Renée is angular, poised for movement. She turns from us; all hips, her body looks about to twist, caught in the jaunting elbows, the right perfectly in focus and the left slightly blurred, on the move. However, her shrugging shoulders keep her there; they are expressively in the moment, emphasised with the look on her face: perfectly in profile, her eyes are wide and dark, locked in a stare slightly disdainful, her lips illuminated with a slight gleam. The lack of background in this photograph plays with this stance. She is deliberately being watched, centre stage, protagonist of the image, but equally deliberately nonchalant, turning away, careless. She is in a pose, but one that plays to her emotion rather than the camera’s. Light in this photo is exquisite; softly, it blurs the hair in velvety waves, barely distinguishable, before playing with the surface of skin, all contours and tone, she is beautifully captured.

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