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Art HERstory: Renée Perle

After much delay, I’m back with another edition of Art HERstory (hope you like the new header 😉 )!

In today’s post I want to touch on the importance of a muse and focus on the life of Renée Perle—muse to French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue and designer John Galliano. Read on…

In Greek mythology, the Muses are a sisterhood of goddesses or spirits who embody the arts and inspire the creation process with their graces through remembered and improvised song and stage, writing, traditional music and dance.

In modern times we refer to an artistic inspiration as a muse. All artists need some help or direction unleashing their creative potential. Feelings of not being creative, of being “stuck?, or of getting bored part of the way through a creative project can often haunt the creative mind. A muse supports the exploration of creativity as an adventure or as an important part of one’s personal journey. They help fulfill a creative passion. A muse helps people realize the importance of creativity as a life call, using intuition, patience, compassion, focus and openness.

Simply put—a muse is art.


Renée Perle, a Romanian Jewish girl who moved to Paris, is famous as the first muse of the famous French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986), who is considered one of the leading photographers of the 20th century.

Renée lived with Lartigue as his girlfriend, having met him in 1929 or 1930 on the Rue de la Pompe. He thought she was Mexican, but he guessed wrong; Perle was Romanian, and a model once employed by the French dressmaker Doeuillet.


“She is beautiful,” Lartigue told his diary. “The small mouth with the full painted lips! The ebony black eyes. From under her fur coat comes a warmth of perfume. The head looks petite on her long neck.”

John Galliano called Renée Perle, the inspiration behind his Fall 2005 show, “a kittenish Parisian coquette.” Jacques Henri Lartigue, who immortalized her in his pictures, had another term for her: angel.

The pair spent two years together, cavorting as if on eternal vacation in Cannes, Juan-les-Pins, and Biarritz, with Lartigue’s camera always at the ready. In the “shadowless heaven” of his photographs, glamorous women, including his first and second wives, Bibi and Florette, abound, but Perle’s lacquered hair, slender silhouette, modern T-shirts, armfuls of bangles, and talonlike nails shone the brightest. “Around her,” Lartigue wrote,

“I see a halo of magic.”

Her spectacular beauty inspired some of his best photographs.

Renée also painted, and a large number of her quaint and naive self-portraits are seen in some Lartigue photos. They do not show much mastery of artistic technique, but they have a strange fascination, perhaps because they show something approaching a manic-compulsion by Renée to paint her own face on canvas over and over, almost without end. There have been many efforts to find one of these portraits, as a specimen, but so far with no success. Renée’s step-daughter has an oil portrait of her step-mother, but everything else which had been carefully preserved by Renée was dispersed in 2000 and 2001 in two famous Paris sales by Tajan.

“Half past five at the Embassy. I wait for my “parasol” from last night. I need a whisky. I’m very shy deep down, and ready to be furious if she doesn’t show up. It’s my curiosity that would be most disappointed…

Five thirty-five. There she is! Can it really be her? Ravishing, tall, slim, with a small mouth and full lips, and dark porcelain eyes. She casts aside her fur coat in a gust of warm perfume. We’re going to dance. Mexican? Cuban? Her very small head sits on a very long neck. She is tall; her mouth is at the level of my chin. When we dance my mouth is not far from her mouth. Her hair brushes against both.

“Romanian. My name is Renée P… I was a model at Doeuillet…” Delicious. She takes off her gloves. Long, little girl’s hands. Something in my mind starts dancing at the thought that one day perhaps she would agree to paint the nails of those hands…”

-Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894-1986)

Diary, Paris, March 7, 1930.


On that note: I hope you enjoyed this week’s feature. I leave you to be inspired but more importantly—to inspire. Set out to make powerful choices using creativity as a catalyst, and along the way, educate others about the importance of art and beauty.


Sources & Images: & Killer.Bee.Sting

Please visit the Renée Perle tribute MySpace page, created by Killer.Bee.Sting, HERE .




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