Two of the most interesting cultural spaces in Venice, Palazzo Grassi and Casa dei Tre Oci, are dedicating significant retrospectives to two masters of 20th century photography: Henri Cartier Bresson and Jacques Henri Lartigue, one a few steamboat stops from the other.
“Henri Cartier-Bresson. Le Grand Jeu” at palazzo Grassi is a selection of images made by 5 curators from 385 previously chosen by the artist himself in the Seventies. Therefore “Le Grand Jeu” is a photographic exhibition that recalls themes such as amusement, chance and leisure, because the curators were invited to choose 50 photographs by working in complete autonomy. Even the setting consists of the result of 5 different languages and interpretations.
The path that accompanies the visitor through the knowledge of more art-pieces by one great artist also lays bare the insight, the sensations and the style of 5 curators that show the influence of Breton’s pictures on their personal sphere.
It is a happy story the one on Lartigue at Casa dei Tre Oci. You leave the exhibition with a sense of general relief and lightness, as if someone just told you not to worry because there is always something nice to remember, as long as we save it from the fleetingness of time.
The exhibition offers the observer a 360° profile of Lartigue, presented as the top photographer of the Belle époque – a professional that engaged in the fashion field, portraits and cinema. From the works on display the visitors can discern the interest the curators put into discovering a more personal dimension of the artist. This is the reason why 55 black&white unpublished works from its private albums were chosen to be included.
In truth, the title “L’invenzione della felicità” (The invention of happiness) suggests something to us about the photographer’s life. A visionary artist, Lartigue grows up in a wealthy family, in between big mansions and trips overseas. Perhaps it is living such a well-adjusted life that brings upon the realization of how happiness can be fleeting and transient. So we find out a sort of obsession of the photographer with capturing, and preserving in album stacks, everything that awakes his wonder and enthusiasm: bike rides, portraits, trips. His albums are so perfect, flawless and empirical, that he seems to be inventing happiness through its reorganization.
Lartigue’s message is relevant today more than ever, since it reminds us of the importance of marvel in the little things, in uncertain times.