Drag-racing day at the Auteuil races – Paris, June 23 1911

Silver Gelatin Photograph

Signed and numbered in ink on recto, JHL blind stamp in margin. 1/25

In 1911, Lartigue increasingly turned his attention to the visual pleasure afforded by photographing the most fashionable and beautiful women of Paris. The kind of spectacle of elegant women on promenade in the Bois de Boulogne and at the gala afternoons at the racetrack fascinated him and beckoned Lartigue to photograph them. Remarking about the women at the races in Paris, Lartigue notes:

“In Carriage Day at the Races at Auteuil, Lartigue reveals this spectacle of the dazzling display. In the image, the three hats appear exotic as if they are carefully groomed tropical birds partially obscuring all three of the women’s faces but not their emotions. Stripes accentuate the womanly figures while balancing the unstaged photograph.”

The extravagant women are seemingly enjoying a different type of spectacle while Lartigue looks on at their own self-made one. Encapsulating not only the fashion of an era, but the era itself, the nostalgic image lends itself to what Lartigue called a “fairy-like epoch.” So much so that in the 1960s when Lartigue’s previously unknown photographs were finally made public, Cecil Beaton drew on this image for his costume designs for My Fair Lady.