Cocteau, Jean

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Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau is born in Maisons-Lafitte on July 5 1889. He is a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, ceramic artist and filmmaker. Cocteau is born in a bourgeois family. From 1908 on he is a regular in artistic circles. In 1911 he write the libretto for "Le dieu bleu", a ballet of the Ballets Russes. In 1917 he write the libretto for the avant-garde ballet "Parade", for which among others Pablo Picasso designed the props and costumes and Erik Satie composed the music. In the program booklet Guillaume Apollinaire used for the first time the word "surréaliste."

In 1920 Cocteau got a relationship with the upcoming writer Raymond Radiguet, then 17 years old. Cocteau was openly bisexual. A period of productivity followed for Cocteau. This stopped in 1923 however, when Radiguet died of typhoid fever. Afterwards Cocteau hit addicted to opium. In 1926 he released "Le rappel à l'ordre", a book of essays that the renewed interest in traditions in the period after the First World War. The name of the art movement "Retour à l'ordre" is here probably derived. This movement was a reaction to the war and resisted the radical avant-garde of the years up to 1917. Instead, they took inspiration from the classic and traditional art.

In 1929 Cocteau wrote his most famous work, "Les Enfants terribles', and he made his first film, "Le Sang d'un Poète." Next, he made less controversial pieces and he wrote plays for the established order. He got a relationship with French actor Jean Marais and gave him a role in his play "Les Parents Terribles."

In the 1930s, Cocteau designed his first jewelry for fashion designers like Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. He started also the designing and making of ceramics. The ceramics were executed by Atelier Madeline Jolly in Vallauris.

From the 1940s Cocteau made, under the influence of Marais, agian films, including "La Belle et La Bête" (beauty and the beast), based on the famous children's story of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. He also wrote in 1940 the extremely successful one-act play "Le Bel Indifférent " for Édith Piaf, with whom he was very close friends. In 1949, he made his most important movie, "Orphée", based on his own piece from 1926.

In 1955, he became a member of the Académie française and the Académie royale de langue et de littérature françaises de Belgique. He also received the French Legion of honour.

Cocteau died in Milly-la-Forêt / Paris on October 11, 1963 at the age of 74. The day before Édith Piaf passed away (text from Wikipedia). 

Pictures: Jean Cocteau, portrait by photographer Willy Maywald (source Artnet); Cocteau with plate (source Veniceclayartists); plate (source; vase executed by atelier Madeline-Jolly, Vallauris (coll. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam); plate Jeune fille à l' oeil (source lotprive); signature.









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Even though Cocteau was active in several areas, he found that he was in the first place a poet and that all his work was poetry, be it a novel, a film, a play, ceramic or a painting. Cocteau was one of the most important people within surrealism. His work was a major influence on many artists, including the famous Les Six-composers. His most famous works are the book Les Enfants terribles (1929), the stage play Les parents terribles and the film La Belle et la Bête (1946).