21 January 1903
|Died||30 October 1967 (aged 64)|
|Education||École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs, Grande Chaumiere Academy of Fine Arts|
|Known for||Photography, Painting|
|Movement||Surrealism, Humanist photography|
|Awards||Prix de la critique, 1962|
Émile Savitry (1903-1967) was a French photographer and painter.
Born in Saigon, in 1903, into the wealthy colonial industrialist family of Felix Marius Alphonse Dupont and Cecile Leonie Audra, Émile renamed himself Savitry to go at age 17 to study painting (1920-1924) at École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs and at the private Grande Chaumiere Academy of Fine Arts (still located in Paris at 14, Rue de la Grande Chaumiere), until 1924.
Associated with poet Robert Desnos and painter André Derain and the Surrealists, Savitry exhibited in 1929 at dealer Zborowski's gallery a sellout show, the catalogue essay of which was penned by celebrated Surrealist poet Louis Aragon (1897-1982). However, though on the threshold of artistic fame he decamped to Polynesia. Commentators propose different reasons for this decision; "He had more than one string to his art," wrote Claude Roy in 1972, "painting, photography, travel (and doing nothing). But what did not interest him was to be successful." (and as a wealthy man, despite the 1929 recession, Savitry did not need the proceeds of success); Barbara Creed notes that "The Surrealists saw travel as a means to achieve a state of dépaysement "; while another factor may have been the disagreements between the Surrealists over their association with Communism, which reached a climax with André Breton's letter of provocation to the group, and meeting with them on 11 March 1929, on the issue of working collectively, to which idea Savitry was amongst the majority of the group in responding positively, innocently naming the reluctant, and soon to be expelled, Desnos as a desirable collaborator .
Savitry was accompanied on his journey to the tropics by surrealist painter Georges Malkin and Yvette Ledoux, a young American woman whom he'd just met. On arrival she chose to go with Malkin. Savitry had taken a Gaumont Block-Notes 6x9 camera, so named for its shape and its ingenious sheet magazine (see: http://camera-wiki.orghttp://popflock.com/learn?s=Gaumont_Block-Notes), and happened upon an beached 'ghost ship'.Friedrich W. Murnau, in the middle of shooting his ill-fated movie Tabou, was impressed by Savitry's boat picture and engaged him on his team to research Polynesian iconography and to make film stills.
On return to Paris in 1930 he commenced a career as a photographer, co-founding with Charles Rado, Brassaï and Ergy Landau in 1933 the Rapho agency. For Rapho, he covered the massive refugee influx into the South of France from the Spanish Civil War. His reportage for Match and other magazines also features his close friend Django Reinhardt, whom he met in Toulon and whose installation with his family in Paris he sponsored, introducing Django into the jazz scene at La Boîte à Matelots at 10 rue Fontaine.
From 1932 to 1934, he assisted Brassaï (1899-1984). In February 1939, his reportage on the rue Pigalle theatre precinct is published in Paris Match.
Mobilized in September 1939, he joined the battalion of Engineering in Avignon.
On 2 April 1940, at Hyères, he married the Argentinean painter and illustrator Elsa Henriquez (1915 ?-2010), daughter of Peruvian dancer Helba Huara (1900-1989) and Peruvian journalist Gonzalo More, and through them Savitry met and photographed a number of Argentinian poets and writers. They had a son, Francis "Paco" Dupont.
He was later a regular contributor to fashion magazines Vogue, Jardin des Modes and Harper's Bazaar. He was also published in the 1950s in Regards, Visages du Monde, Cavalcade, Point de Vue and Images du Monde, Caliban, Picture Post and Réalités.
He is best known for his portraits of mid-century personalities, many of whom were close friends: actors Anouk Aimée, Brigitte Bardot, Pierre Brasseur, Madeleine Renaud, Serge Reggiani and Charlie Chaplin, film directors Jacques Prévert and Marcel Carné, sculptors Alberto Giacometti, Victor Brauner and Oscar Dominiguez, Marcel Jean, Bertold Bartosch, Pierre Loeb, musicians Django Reinhardt, Claude Luter, Édith Piaf, writer Colette, transvestite sculptor Anton Prinner, and Surrealist painter Germain Vandersteen.
During the war Savitry corresponded with filmmaker Paul Grimault (who was posted the Lower Rhine), and made stills from 1942 for Jacques Prévert and Marcel Carné. In 1947 he moves to Belle Île to be on the set of Carné's La Fleur de l'âge, making a famous image of Anouk Aimée holding a kitten. He also worked for the director Pierre Billon and Jean Grémillon.
Savitry returned to painting in the 1960s with an exhibition at the Renée Laporte gallery in Antibes. He contributed the only painting unsold from his 1929 Zborowski show La lumiére du gaz arrivant dans les ruines to the exhibition 'Le Surréalisme: Sources, Histoire, Affinités' at Charpentier Gallery, Paris, in 1964.
He died in Paris on 30 October 1967.