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Jean Cocteau

Maisons-Laffitte/Essonne 1889 - Milly-la-Forêt/Seine-et-Oise 1963


Jean Cocteau was born in Maisons-Laffitte, some 18 km north-west of Paris in 1889. He attends a private school from 1900 to 1904. His father commits suicide in 1899. At he age of seventeen he has an affair with the actress Madeleine Carlier who is thirty years older than him. Around 1908 he meets the poet Edouard de Max and the director of the "Ballett Russe", Sergej Diaghilew, in Paris. They encourage him to write his own poetry.
In 1908 he publishes his first poetical work "Lamp d'Aladin". He writes the libretto for the ballet "Parade". It premiers in Paris in 1917, the music was composed by Eric Satie and Pablo Picasso made stage and costume designs.
Jean Cocteau founds the publishing house "Editions de la Sirene" after the war and also publishes his own works there. But he also continues to co-operate with other artists and publishes numerous musical works by Igor Strawinsky, Eric Satie, the group of composers "Les Six" and others. Other members of the group "Les Six" are Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud and Germaine Tailleferre.
In 1919 he releases his work "Le Cap de Bonne-Espérance". Also in 1919 he meets the fifteen year old Raymond Radiguet with whom he has a homosexual relationship, but he also sees his artistic talents and becomes his patron, in return, Cocteau's work is also inspired by Radiguet. In 1920 Jean Cocteau and Raymond Radiguet initiate the magazine "Le Coq", together with the composer Georges Auric, the writers Paul Morand and Tristan Tzara, the painter Roger de la Fresnay and others. Raymond Radiguet dies of typhoid in 1923, leading Cocteau to a severe opium addiction.
In 1930 Cocteau makes the first film "Le Sang d'un poète", others follow. He starts a new relationship with the actor Jean Maraism who is 25 years younger than Cocteau, in 1937. He creates numerous film roles just for Marais.
Jean Cocteau creates a comprehensive and versatile oeuvre as writer, choreographer, painter as well as film director. He followed new trends in art with great enthusiasm, especially Surrealism.
Jean Cocteau dies in Milly-la-Forêt in 1963.


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