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Jean COCTEAU

French Jean COCTEAU

French poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, boxing manager, playwright, artist and filmmaker

Source :  Alain GARRIC

Born: on July 05, 1889 in Maisons-Laffitte, France
Died: on October 11, 1963 in Milly-la-Forêt, France


Biography

Cocteau was born in Maisons-Laffitte, Yvelines, once a small village near Paris to Georges Cocteau and his wife Eugénie Lecomte, a prominent Parisian family. His father was a lawyer and amateur painter, who committed suicide when Cocteau was nine. He left home at age fifteen. 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. He published his first volume of poems, Aladdin's Lamp, at nineteen. Soon Cocteau became known in the Bohemian artistic circles as 'The Frivolous Prince'—the title of a volume he published at twenty-two. Edith Wharton described him as a man "to whom every great line of poetry was a sunrise, every sunset the foundation of the Heavenly City..."

In his early twenties, Cocteau became associated with the writers Marcel Proust, André Gide, and Maurice Barrès. During the Great War Cocteau served in the Red Cross as an ambulance driver. This was the period in which he met the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Picasso, artist Amedeo Modigliani and numerous other writers and artists with whom he later collaborated. The Russian ballet-master Sergei Diaghilev challenged Cocteau to write a scenario for the ballet - "Astonish me," he urged. This resulted in Parade which was produced by Diaghilev, designed by Pablo Picasso, and composed by Erik Satie in 1917. 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 in the prologue to Les mamelles de Tirésias , a work begun in 1903 and completed in 1917 less than a year before he died. "If it had not been for Apollinaire in uniform," wrote Cocteau, "with his skull shaved, the scar on his temple and the bandage around his head, women would have gouged our eyes out with hairpins." Cocteau denied being a Surrealist or being in any way attached to the movement.

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