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About the Artist

Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau (French, born July 5, 1889–died October 11, 1963) was among the best, most multi-talented artists of the 20th century. He was a novelist, poet, designer, dramatist, filmmaker, artist, and playwright. He started writing at the age of 10, and, by age 16, was already an established poet. Most of his works were influenced by psychoanalysis, Surrealism, the Catholic religion, Cubism, and sometimes opium. During his time, Cocteau was a promoter of unconventional fashion and styles. He was connected to well-known artists, including writer Marcel Proust, Pablo Picasso, composer Eric Satie, and director Serge Diaghilev.


At the age of 19, Cocteau published La Lampe d’Aladin, his premier compendium of poems. Although he embraced Catholicism at first, he shunned religion entirely toward the end of his life. Following the First World War, he was an ambulance chauffeur in Belgium, where the novel Thomas l’imposteur originated. Some of his very significant works of art were created during the years when he had become addicted to opium. These include Les Enfants terribles (1929) and Orphée (1926). Many other artists believed his most important play to be La Machine Infernale (1934). In 1930, he produced his first film, Le Sang d’un poète. In the 1940s, he reverted back to creating films, initially as a screenwriter, and, finally, as a director. This allowed him to produce such acclaimed films as Orphée (1949), La Belle et la Bête (1945), and Le Testament d’Orphée (1960).


Throughout his filmmaking career, Cocteau created around 12 films, each using heavily surrealistic and symbolic imagery. When it comes to music, Cocteau had a close connection with a group of composers called Les Six. His other collaborations included ballet scenarios for Darius Milhaud and Erik Satie, Le Boeuf sur le toit (1920), as well as librettos for Milhaud and Igor Stravinsky. As an artist, he published several books with vivid illustrations, and worked as a designer. 

Artist CV




Severin Wunderman Museum, Irvine, CA

Fondation Pierre Bergé - Yves Saint Laurent, Paris, France

San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco, CA

Jean Cocteau Museum, Menton, France

The Cartier Colletion, Paris, France

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL

Centre Pompidou, Paris, France

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY


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