10 November 2022

Photo by Lucienne Chevert

Paris-based photographer Lucienne Chevert (1911-1982) portrayed dozens of French stars of the post-war period. She was the associate of the famous photographer Sam Lévin.

Francoise Arnoul
Françoise Arnoul. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 366. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Martine Carol
Martine Carol. French postcard by Editions P.I., no. 210 H. Photo: Lucienne Chevert, no. 456.

Danielle Godet
Danielle Godet. French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 345 (E.D.U.G.). Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Jeanne Moreau
Jeanne Moreau. French postcard by Editions du Globe (E.D.U.G.), no. 620. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Juliette Greco
Juliette Gréco. French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 623. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Assistant and associate

Lucienne Chevert was born in 1911.

In 1934, upcoming photographer Sam Lévin started his own photo studio in his home, an apartment on rue Saint-Georges in Paris. He transformed the living room into a shooting studio where he received his models, whom he first met on film sets. Very quickly, he was joined by the young Lucienne Chevert who became his assistant. Chevert was only 22 or 23 at the time, but their cooperation at this portrait studio would continue till her death in 1982.

Although Lévin was married to another woman, their professional association obviously worked. Matthieu Rivallin, curator of a 2022 exhibition in La Maison/Nevers, describes the work of Studio Levin as a "four-handed photograph". He found it so difficult to distinguish the work of Sam Lévin from that of Lucienne Chevert, in a production of more than 250,000 shots. For almost fifty years, they achieved an almost common career.

In 1935 Sam Lévin was asked to replace a sick photographer on a film set. This proved to be a great start for a career as a set photographer for both him and Chevert. In 1937, the Studio Lévin moved to rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. While Sam Lévin, on file with the National Security as a foreigner and a Jew, took refuge in the southern zone, in 1942, in order to avoid the spoliation of the Parisian business, Lucienne Chevert took over the studio in rue du Faubourg-Saint - honoured in her name.

Chevert is first credited as a set photographer for Dernier atout/The last ace (Jacques Becker, 1942) starring Mireille Balin and Raymond Rouleau. Reportedly a mediocre crime film. Until the end of the war, she was to sign the set photographs of a dozen films such as Sortilèges (Christian-Jaque, 1944), Boule de suif (Christian-Jaque, 1945) with Micheline Presle, and Adieu chérie/Goodbye Darling (Raymond Bernard, 1945) with Danielle Darrieux.

Matthieu Rivallin: "The Studio Lévin portrait of the late 1930s is above all based on a technique, a sophisticated lighting scheme from the film sets where Sam Lévin and Lucienne Chevert began and then regularly operated. The aesthetics of their photographs then presented many similarities with the films of the time: a subtle harmony of shadows and light; faces enhanced by soft shades of black and white; bodies modelled using diffuse atmospheres, luminous touches, dark or radiant backgrounds."

Suzy Delair in Quai des Orfèvres (1947)
French postcard by Editions P.I., offered by Les Carbones Korès, no. 121. Photo: Lucienne Chevert. Suzy Delair in Quai des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947).

Simone Renant
Simone Renant. French postcard by Edit. P.I., offered by Les Carbones Korès, no. 186. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Bernard Blier
Bernard Blier. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 369. Offered by Les Carbones Korès. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Suzy Delair
Suzy Delair. French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 128. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Simone Renant
Simone Renant. French postcard by Editions du Globe, no. 153. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Lesbian photographer

At the Liberation, the workshop grew, adding a photo library and a laboratory to the studio. A lounge was set up to welcome actors, singers and models who came to entrust their image to what became one of the most famous studios in the capital. In 1948, the studio signed a contract with Unifrance and became their main supplier of images. Unifrance-Film aimed to promote French cinema abroad, both films and professionals, actors or directors.

Very successful was Lucienne Chevert's cooperation with famous film director Henri-Georges Clouzot. It started with Quai des Orfèvres/Quay of the Goldsmiths (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1947) for which she made beautiful star portraits of Louis Jouvet, Bernard Blier, Suzy Delair and Simone Renant.

Renant plays the photographer Dora, who works for the artists of the music halls and nightclubs. One of her clients is her neighbour, the singer Jenny Lamour (Delair). It's clear by the way Dora interacts with Jenny that she is a lesbian and thus Dora is one of the first gay characters in the cinema. Chevert of course made Dora's beautiful photos of Jenny Lamour, who were also used in the publicity for the film. Quai des Orfèvres is an excellent Film Noir with crisp black and white cinematography by Armand Thirard. Chevert gave her stills the same atmosphere. They are now popular items at auctions.

Next, Lucienne Chevert made the stills for the comedy Antoine et Antoinette/Antoine and Antoinette (Jacques Becker, 1947) and Le dessous des cartes/Under the Cards (André Cayatte, 1948) starring Madeleine Sologne.

Her definitive breakthrough came with her work for the classic La salaire de la peur/The wages of fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1952) with Yves Montand. La salaire de la peur is a painfully riveting suspense thriller about a suicidally dangerous mission involving trucks and nitroglycerine.

Dominique Wilms
Dominique Wilms. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 28G. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Yves Montand
Yves Montand. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 455. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Nicole Berger
Nicole Berger. French postcard by Editions P.I., Paris, no. 663. Photo:Lucienne Chevert.

Ingrid Bergman
Ingrid Bergman. French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 198. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Charles Aznavour
Charles Aznavour. French postcard by Editions du Globe, Paris, no. 430. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Beautiful and sexy Stars

Lucienne Chevert is now remembered for her set photography but also for her film star portraits. For twenty years, all those who mattered paraded under the lights of 3 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré. Chevert became one of the most famous celebrity photographers in France and her glamorous portraits of film French actors and especially actresses graced thousands of European film star postcards.

In the intimacy of their beautifully decorated studio and thanks to her friendly character and personal interest, many film stars felt at ease. Her portraits of beautiful and sexy stars such as Martine Carol and Françoise Arnoul are exquisite.

She made portraits of many stars of the French cinema of the 1950s, including Charles Aznavour, Eddie Constantine and Yves Montand. International stars like Ingrid Bergman and Nadja Tiller also posed for her camera.

Chevert photographed the faces of the Nouvelle Vague, like Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jeanne Moreau. Her colour portraits at that time are still fresh and cheerful. And in 1965, she returned to set photography for Agnes Varda’s classic Le Bonheur (1965). Le Bonheur was one of her last known professional activities. Lucienne Chevert died in 1982.

Matthieu Rivallin: "Sam Lévin and Lucienne Chevert were recognised for their talent very early on, but this did not mean that they were making art. The image to be produced was first and foremost a market affair and their know-how necessarily adapted to a command and to its uses. There was still photography, fashion photography, advertising photography and above all, there is portraiture. (...) The portrait was a promotional article, it played the intermediary between the illustrious figure and his audience, between the idol and his groupies."

Juliette Mayniel
Juliette Mayniel. French postcard by E.D.U.G. (Editions du Globe), no. 45. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Jean-Paul Belmondo
Jean-Paul Belmondo. French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 77. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Macha Méril
Macha Méril. French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 88. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Jean Sorel
Jean Sorel. French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 143. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

Jean-Pierre Cassel
Jean-Pierre Cassel. French postcard by E.D.U.G., no. 150. Photo: Lucienne Chevert.

An earlier version of this post was in 2014 the ninth post in a series on film star photographers. Earlier posts were on the Reutlinger Studio in Paris, Italian star photographer Attilio Badodi, the German photographer Ernst Schneider, Dutch photo artist Godfried de Groot, Milanese photographers Arturo Varischi and Giovanni Artico, the French Studio Lorelle, the British 'royal' photographer Dorothy Wilding, and Berlin duo Becker & Maass.

And for more postcards with photos by Lucienne Chevert, check out our Flickr album.

Sources: Mathieu Rivallin (The Eye of Photography),  UniFrance Films, Wikipedia, and IMDb.

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