Beloved Anglo-Franco actress, singer and model Jane Birkin died at her home in Paris on July 15. She was 76 years old.
The news comes just two months after Birkin cancelled a string of concerts, citing health concerns—and two years since the star suffered a stroke.
Despite being born in London in 1946, the French considered Birkin one of their own. Raised by an actor mother and naval officer father, Birkin married music composer John Barry at just 17 years old, a union that would last three years. The couple welcomed daughter Kate in 1967.
In 1966, Birkin burned a hole in the cinema screen in Michelangelo Antonioni’s classic film Blow Up, a role as a beautiful ingenue that saw the actress catapult to fame. A year later, Birkin moved across the channel to star in a romantic comedy titled Slogan alongside French singer-songwriter Serge Gainbourgh. Little did she realise at the time, Gainbourgh (who was 18 years her senior) would be the love of her life.
For 13 years, the pair enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle as France’s most famous couple. In February 1969, they released a song titled “Je t’aime…Moi Non” (“I Love You…Me Neither”), its sexual lyrics condemned by the Vatican and banned in several countries.
“He and I became the most famous of couples in that strange way because of Je t’aime and … he went on being my friend until the day he died. Who could ask for more?” Birkin told CNN in 2006. “So Paris became my home. I’ve been adopted here. They like my accent.”
In 1971, the coupled welcomed a daughter, Charlotte.
Birkin starred in over 70 films; Death On The Nile, Evil Under The Sun, Cannabis, Wonderwall, The Pirate, the list goes on. My favourite was 1969’s La Piscine where Birkin played fatale teenager Penelope who seduces a writer by a swimming pool along the Côte d’Azur. This role was later replayed by Dakota Johnson in Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash remake/rework.
Birkin and Gainbourgh’s relationship was up and down—reportedly, Birkin once launched herself into the River Seine after throwing a custard pie in Gainsbourg’s face!—and they ended their romantic relationship in 1980.
Birkin had another daughter, Lou, with French film director Jacques Doillon. Her eldest Kate, a fashion photographer, sadly died in 2013 after falling from a balcony in Paris. Charlotte Gainsbourg is a musician and actress, and Lou Doillon is a model and musician.
“Jane Birkin was a French icon. A complete artist, her voice was as gentle as her commitments were ardent,” tweeted French president Emmanuel Macron. “She bequeaths us a legacy of songs and images that will never leave us.”
“She embodied freedom, because she sang the most beautiful words of our language, Jane Birkin was a French icon,” he continued.
Beyond cinema, Birkin will forever hold a legacy at the House of Hermès. Its famous handbag, The Birkin, launched in 1984 after Birkin reportedly met Hermés chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas on a flight from Paris to London where she discussed the need for an elegant bag to house all of her needs as a mother.
This article originally appeared on Grazia International.