French painter Hubert de Lartigue specializes in hyper-realistic portraiture. His work combines modern sex symbolization and vintage pin-up model inspirations. Somehow, Hubert bypasses the objectification of the female nude by portraying the unabashed emotion of his muses. He further personifies these beautiful models through the humility of his own insecurities. Using a paintbrush and airbrush, he builds up coats of acrylic, then sands his works until brushstroke and other painterly gestures are nearly invisible, leaving the canvas surface almost as smooth as a photograph. De Lartigue is known for capturing his live models in sensual and alluring poses, often drawing particular attention to their lips. (not-safe-for-work content ahead!)
Tell us about yourself
I am a french painter living near Paris. I’m 51 years old, but who cares about that? I’ve really been working as a painter for the past 12 years. Before, I was an illustrator for advertising and publishing. I specialized in hyperrealism and science fiction, then pin-ups.
Tell us a little bit about your style of artwork
My work is photorealistic. I work from photos I take, then I reproduce them with acrylics on canvas with an airbrush.
How have you heard others describe it?
I think people find my work beautiful and sometime sexy. I want people fall in love with my painting as I fall “artisticaly” in love with my models.
What are people’s reactions when they first see your work?
Often people think my work is photography at first glance. I hope the fact it is hand made is not so important for the beauty of the image. Painting is just a way for me to put some soul, energy and some of myself into a piece of art. I hope people can feel it. My best recompense is when I hear “WOW!” from somebody who discovers my paintings, especially my big canvases. That’s my applause, and I feel like a rock star! because doing these paintings is very difficult and boring! But the result worth the pain.
What experience has been your greatest influence on your artwork?
It was when I did a photo session with a new model 12 years ago. Her beauty shocked me like an electroshock or the seeing of God. Since that moment, I try to recreate this experience with other models, but it is rare. But I can say I’ve seen God in the curves of a woman.
You say that you like to paint the element of surprise – how do you capture this, and what is so interesting about this emotion for you?
When I take photographs I am very directive. I know what I want. I’m aware of different expressions the model can bring me. Voluntarily or not. I am waiting for a miracle expression in each photo session, and I think I am blessed because it happens.
Can you explain the idea behind your paintings – what message, emotion, or idea are you showing the viewer?
I’m trying to say, “I exist! I am alive. Love me and don’t forget me.” I think all other artists and humans in general, try to say this in their own way. More seriously, I do the job I am good at. I have found the reason I am on earth. I am happy.
How do you choose your subjects? Is it a difficult process?
Choosing my subject is like a journey during my career. I try to not be too repetitive because life is too short to be bored, even for money. So I take the risk to be wrong and I try new challenges as often as I can. At the moment, it is big formats. I think the scale of the painting is important for the emotion. I was wondering the cause for a long time until I find that it is a reminiscence of the youth. When we were babies, everyone seemed so big, especially your parents, especially your mother. I think this is the reason for the success of large format human representation. I think about Ron Mueck. Why these giant old people on the beach are so moving? I think it’s because they are at the scale we’ve seen them when we were little children.
Who are your muses?
My muses are the women you can’t have or touch or even think about. Because you are married and faithful, or because it is the wife of your friend or because you are too old, or whatever the reason – they’re unobtainable. There are women who force you to sublimate your pain into art. It hurts, but it’s good. You know what I mean. I have found my models among people I know. Sometimes on internet. Never in the street. I am not confident enough to ask a beautiful woman I meet in the street, or in the Parisian metro, to model for me, naked if possible, because I am a great and famous artist. But I hope in the future that a woman recognize me in the street and makes this proposition for free. I like to dream.
What should people viewing your work for the first time know about the story behind it?
I think they should know that the technique is love. It is not cold or made like a machine but it is made with pain and sweat with love, for them.
Do you have any mantras that you live your life by? What are they?
Yes, advice which was given to me by my mentor Georges Pichard a long time ago: “Do work like it will be the last work of your life. Do it as if you should have an eternity to do it.”
What can we expect to see from you next?
My art is available for seeing and purchase at the Bernarducci Meisel Gallery. It is difficult to do a new show because I don’t have a huge production and they sell my art quite well. I want to do bigger paintings, sexier paintings and more beautiful, if I can. Actually I sometime do some porn-like paintings nobody has ever seen on internet. I will continue this series and perhaps make them public in the future.
Any final thoughts for people who are reading this?
I did my best and I will if I can.
See more of Hubert’s work on his Artist Website.
Interviewer: Rob Green