Nathalie Lecroc paints handbags
Today I want to introduce you to my dear friend and super-talented French artist Nathalie Lecroc, known as Miss Lecroc. I first came across Nathalie by reading an article in the Sunday Times in 1999.
It showed gorgeous watercolour paintings depicting the content of handbags, part of a project to paint 1001 bags before publishing them in a book. I was hooked and started obsessively calling the Parisian number listed. After a few attempts, I got hold of Miss Lecroc and blurted out that I was due in Paris the following week.
"Can you paint my bag and its contents", I begged. We couldn’t coordinate diaries but Natalie promised she would come to London in the next few weeks and that we would meet! I am happy to say she kept her promise, I got my unique watercolour painting and we have been firm friends ever since, staying at each other's homes in Paris and London. These days Nathalie lives in the beautiful French countryside with her gorgeous husband and their son.
Here's an interview with Nathalie for a blog post I wrote back in 2012.
Why did you choose handbags? The handbags were not an obsession for me. Instead, my interest was to examine the contents of the handbags and to paint them… to discover the secret life of women and men.
Have you always been creative? When I was a little girl I would prefer to draw in the classroom rather than to play in the playground. I have been drawing ever since.
How did you first start painting handbags and who was the first owner? It was June 1998, during a private view in my old collective studio. It was for a group exhibition with 11 artists of my generation. The first bag painted was my own. I numbered it #0000. I wanted to show the process to the public. The second person was a Japanese student. During that evening, I drew around 15 paintings, until midnight! It was tiring but very exciting. I discovered that the most interesting aspect was the process of the encounter.
Does looking at people’s contents tell you a lot about the owner of the bag? It’s like portraits. You imagine the personalities behind the bags. The content gives you an insight into the owner's world! Some are poetic, some strictly practical and others in disorder.
Can you list the most common items that people carry? The items you’ll always find in bags are purses, keys and now mobile phones. Can you believe I still don’t have a mobile phone or website!
Can you describe your clients? My clients are 90% women, aged between 25-40. They range from entrepreneurs, fashion editors, designers to bloggers, stylists and students. They like design, fashion, interiors and accessories and tend to live in cities. I would like to paint more bags belonging to men but understand that bags and the subject matter of showing your content is more of a women’s thing. The project can appeal to everybody, be it men, children or even babies, not just women.
Have you encountered some unusual items in people’s bags? A real little fox terrier named Coco in a Coco Chanel quilted bag in Las Vegas. I discovered an odd little piece of sandwich, a model boat, a hula dress, firecrackers and a huge stack of banknotes in a bag in Paris. Oh yes, and an electric hair remover.
You were invited by Chanel to paint in their stores? Yes, I went to Chanel boutiques in Chicago, Dallas, Hawaii, Las Vegas, New York and San Francisco. They commissioned me to paint the contents of their customer's bag. It was a funny yet enriching experience. There was me, the girl living in Brittany, stepping out of a limousine in New York for all these rich ladies in Chanel. What was interesting to see was how American women all carried some sort of breath freshener or mints. Europeans appeared obsessed with lucky charms and trinkets or coins to get them through the day.
What’s in your handbag today? I am carrying a Stephane Verdino bag. Inside I have a small vintage Japanese kimono bag with a Chinese silk case holding hand cream, homeopathic drops, lip chapstick, lipstick, and a small perfume spray bottle, given to me by Heidi Klum (which I have now refilled with new perfume), chewing gum, kleenex tissues, tampax, rings. I also have a Cath Kidston purse, a rather old wallet that needs replacing, a camera, a colourful foldable shopper, a tape measure, a rain hat, wollen gloves, a well-used agenda that is falling apart and some pens and pencils.
How many bags will you paint and which number have you reached?
I will stop when I reach #1001. I am about to paint #811
Can you talk about the book you’re putting together?
I plan to publish the 1001 paintings in a book. The book will tell of the adventure of all my meetings and encounters. It will take the form of me talking about the evolution of this project and recounting some anecdotes.
Can you explain the process of how people can get in touch and have the contents of their bags painted by you? Well, since I have had my son I don’t travel in the same way. So that people from all over the world can have access to a painting, I now offer a postal service: they get in touch, and we exchange email addresses. I then send them the A5 watercolour card I use that has the stamped number on it, ie #830. Every client signs their painting so that’s why I pre-send it. They then send back the signed card with photographs of their bag and content and some notes describing their possessions and what they mean to them. That’s it. I will then send the original painting by registered post. The cost, all in is €.......
This was in 2012. Nathalie is now a full-time art teacher. But as her son is about to turn 17, I hope she will have more time to finish this incredible project she started 25 ago. She's up to #930 and I had the pleasure and honour to have Nathalie stay with me over the past few days.
I'm about to show you my very own precious watercolour painted for me by Nathalie back in 1999 when we first met. I will always cherish that day. Merci Nathalie, je t’adore! But, I was also fortunate to be gifted another watercolour painting of my 'now' bag and its contents - painted by Nathalie for me on Sunday in my flat. I feel honoured to have two bags in the forthcoming book(s) and I cannot wait to help Nathalie achieve this amazing project and help get it off the ground.
I've actually not asked Nathalie, who left yesterday evening if she's up for painting more bags and what her current cost is for doing so. But if any of you are interested, drop me a line and I'll ask on your behalf.
My bag and contents painted by Nathalie in 1999.
My bag and contents painted by Nathalie on 29th October 2023.
The next images are more examples of the varied work and the varied owners. The last one is actually about her son when he was little and the bag and contents she carried.
Maybe one day she can exhibit the 1000 watercolour-painted bags in a pop-up like this one.