Makeup artist, photographer and designer Serge Lutens first worked for Vogue in 1963, after the 21-year-old called up French Vogue senior beauty editor Françoise Mohrt on the phone. She hired him and they would continue to work together for the next 15 years. By 1968, Lutens would join Christian Dior to design their makeup line and develop its beauty concepts.
It was in 1973 that Serge Lutens, Françoise Mohrt and photographer Max Thiry, worked together on a beauty editorial spread for September issue of French Vogue.
For this shoot, Lutens and Mohrt took inspiration from some of the most famous French Artists in history. The accompanied article describes body makeup as an art form, much like painting on a canvas. It entertains the idea of how these artists, for example from the Impressionist Era, would translate their style using today’s makeup techniques and photography. This is a time before Photoshop, where the application and creative process is almost purely crafted on set.
Paris Vogue, September 1973, Makeup by Serge Lutens for Christian Dior, Beauty editor Françoise Mohrt, Photographer by Max Thiry.
The first image from the editorial is called Pierrot’s Children. Traditionally, Pierrot is described as a clown, a character of old French pantomime, usually having a whitened face and wearing loose white clothing. Leading Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted a portrait of his son Jean, dressed as Pierrot in ‘The White Pierrot’ (1901/2). Here, Serge Lutens uses this to create his own contemporary version with child models.
For these images, Serge Lutens took a technique mastered by Georges Seurat. The Frenchman Seurat was a Post-Impressionist painter who is best known for originating a method called Pointillism. Instead of mixing paint on a palette, Seurat would mix the colors together on the canvas by placing small dot-like strokes next to each other. ‘La Tour Eiffel’ (1889) is an example of this technique.
(L) Serge Lutens preparing the model, Isabelle Weingarten, for a picture in the style of Fernand Léger, 1972. (R) Final image.
Next vision comes from Artist Fernand Léger. Leger was a French painter, sculpture and filmmaker who created a personal form of Cubism. Léger's unique brand of Cubism was distinguished by his focus on cylindrical form and his use of robot-like human figures. Serge Lutens pays homage to his painting above titled “La Femme et L’enfant” (1922).
(L) Still photo from the film Le P’tit Parigot, written by Paul Cartoux, Directed by René Le Somptier, 1926. (R) Sonia Delaunay and two friends in Robert Delaunay’s studio, rue des Grands-Augustins, Paris 1924.
This last image is slightly more ambiguous. Lutens cites textile designer and Avant-garde artist Sonia Delaunay (pictured above, left by Florence Henri, Paris 1931) as his muse. Delaunay (1885-1979) along with her husband Robert co-founded the ‘Simultaneism’ movement, a color theory movement where contrasting colors are placed side by side. She painted, and later designed textiles and garments. These are examples of her work during the Art Deco period.