Hubert de Lartigue is a French artist using the airbrush and acrylic paint on canvas to create large-scale paintings in hyperrealist style. His successful background in technical illustration in both commercial as well as science fiction art, and his later focus on contemporary pin-up art — referencing the famous pin-ups of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s — clearly forms the basis for his fine artwork today.
De Lartigue’s paintings impress not only by their generous size and outstanding technical skill, but also by the way he captures his preferred subject matter. He focuses almost exclusively on painting young women, whether in portraits, as nudes, or intimate close-ups. While women remain the primary focus in all three series, this triad of genres offers quite a wide range of striking, highly idealized aesthetics that can each be appreciated for their beautiful, imaginative, and expressive content.
Interestingly, the personalities, attitudes, and mood of the models always deeply influence de Lartigue’s compositions. One day a model may be more matched to portraiture, another perhaps better suited for a nude or a sexy close-up. Most important to the artist is the model he calls “his Muse” as she was the one who coaxed de Lartigue to relinquish mere illustration, and opened the path towards the large-scale fine art paintings that comprise his current body of work.
De Lartigue’s portraits have a distinct contemporary look, yet show an ethereal, timeless quality that attracts and holds the eye. These portraits include a full range of poses and facial expressions — from coquettish smiles to comical glee, and from tranquil certainty to thoughtful, faraway looks. Some even stick out their tongue in a gesture of humorous familiarity, surprising and delighting the viewer by this unusual demeanour rarely seen in portraiture. All of de Lartigue’s portraits are highly recognizable representations of human emotions, forever frozen in a moment in time.
De Lartigue’s nudes offer a similar wide array of poses; some playfully sensual, others more solemn, yet these nudes always look at ease with their bodies and their nudity. Most of these nudes are shown in simple vacant settings devoid of visual distractions, but some are accompanied by additional elements, such as wings, jewellery, or a single item of clothing or furniture. While highly reminiscent of classical paintings, they enjoy a decidedly contemporary look — through composition, choice of colour palette, and their material expression. It is the art of timeless skill-based painting pulled firmly into today’s era.
Then there are de Lartigue’s witty close-up paintings, striking and surprising due to their large format, presenting masterly cropped compositions holding a plethora of vivid details. Most are focussed on pouting lips or mouths eating brightly coloured candy, inviting us to look closer at the glistening papillae on the tongue, the exquisite strands of saliva thickened by sugar, or the way the lipstick clings to the furrowed grooves of the lips. The mouth and tongue are the only sexual organs we are allowed to see in public, and while these paintings seem innocent and amusing at first glance, they also prompt a suggestion of erotic art in a socially acceptable way.
De Lartigue has built a special bond with all of his models over the years, which can be seen in his exquisite masterpiece entitled Apothéose where we find his Muse surrounded by all of his previous models. This painting not only impresses by its imposing size and exquisite craftsmanship, but also for its compositional uniqueness and intellectual relevance. Eighteen women in different poses, eighteen different body types, eighteen different personalities. A wealth of exquisite details in skin and hair, jewellery and fabric, and physical and psychological postures. Apothéose exudes a sense of community, camaraderie, and closeness. It speaks of the love, respect, and admiration the artist has for the female gender.
De Lartigue paints an idealized world in which elegant, dreamy, flawless women hold the spotlight. He seeks to provoke an aesthetic emotion by presenting the viewer with vivacious beauty, undisputed strength, and singular personality — the archetype of the perfect woman. Like all hyperrealist art, these paintings should be seen in person, only then their full larger-than-life impact is felt — when the viewer stands in front of the painting and connects with the splendour of the rhapsodized gaze of an artist in love with his calling.