The page of Cocteau, Jean, English biography
BiographyJean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau (July 5, 1889 – October 11, 1963) was a French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, and filmmaker. He was born at Maisons-Laffitte, France, a small town near Paris. His versatile, unconventional approach and enormous output brought him international acclaim.
Despite his achievements in virtually all literary and artistic fields, Cocteau insisted that he was primarily a poet and that all his work was poetry. As an important exponent of Surrealism, he had great influence on the work of others, including the group of composer friends in Montparnasse known as Les Six. The word Surrealism was coined, in fact, by Guillaume Apollinaire to describe Cocteau's 1917 collaboration with Erik Satie, Pablo Picasso, and Léonide Massine Parade. Self-proclaimed Surrealism leader André Breton, nonetheless, declared Cocteau a "notorious false poet, a versifier who happens to debase rather than to elevate everything he touches." (Breton, 1953).
On the sunny afternoon of August 12, 1916, Pablo Picasso and his new girlfriend, the fashion model Paquerette, Max Jacob, Manuel Ortiz de Zarate, Marie Vassilieff, Henri-Pierre Roché, Moise Kisling, Amedeo Modigliani and the critic André Salmon were sitting together outside the café La Rotonde in Montparnasse. Their friend, Cocteau, recorded for posterity this extraordinary gathering of talent in a series of 21 photographs showing such characters as a dapper Picasso dressed à l'anglaise with a flat cap, cane and briar pipe. Paquerette wore a long elegant dress and a very silly hat, while Max Jacob at least looked as though he was sober and respectable, and the tiny Marie Vassilieff appeared the formidable little lady she was.
In 1918 he met the 15 year old poet Raymond Radiguet, with whom he had an intense and often stormy relationship until the latter's premature death while on a trip together. See Historical pederastic relationships
In the 1930s, Cocteau had an unlikely affair with Princess Nathalie Paley, the beautiful daughter of a Romanov grand duke and herself a fashion-plate, sometime actress, model, and former wife of couturier Lucien Lelong. She became pregnant. To Cocteau's distress and Paley's lifelong regret, the fetus was aborted due to the intervention of Marie-Laure de Noailles, the eccentric arts patron who had loved Cocteau as a young woman and was determined to ruin his new romance. Cocteau's longest lasting relationship was with the handsome French actor Jean Marais, whom he discovered and cast in Beauty and the Beast.
n 1940 Le Bel Indifférent, Cocteau's play written for and starring Édith Piaf, was enormously successful. He also worked with Picasso on several projects and was friends with most of the European art community. He struggled with opium addiction for most of his adult life and was openly gay, though he had a few brief and complicated affairs with women. He published a considerable amount of work criticising homophobia.
Cocteau's films, the bulk of which he both wrote and directed, were particularly important in introducing Surrealism into French cinema and influenced to a certain degree the upcoming French New Wave genre.
Cocteau is best known for his 1929 novel Les enfants terribles, the 1929 play Les parents terribles, and the 1946 film, Beauty and the Beast.
In 1955 he was made a member of the Académie française and The Royal Academy of Belgium.
During his life Cocteau was commander of the Legion of Honor, Member of the Mallarmé Academy, German Academy (Berlin), American Academy, Mark Twain (U.S.A) Academy, Honorary President of the Cannes film festival, Honorary President of the France-Hungary Association and President of the jazz Academy and of the Academy of the Disc.
Cocteau died in 1963 at the age of 74 and is buried in Chapelle St. Blaise Des Simples, Milly La Foret, Essonne, France.