Portrait of Georges Marchal
By Jean Cocteau (1889-1963)
Pencil on paper
1944, 31x 47cm
Hand-signed and dated by the artist
Cocteau’s elegant line drawing of Georges Marchal of 1944 is amongst his most sensitive portraits. This portrait represents the actor on the brink of his rise to fame. Cinematic legend Marchal would go on to capture the hearts of the public, and dominated the French screens beside Jean Marais.
The polymath Cocteau, who collaborated with artistic minds from Picasso to Satie and Diaghilev, personifies the Parisian avant-garde.
The epicentre of European Modernism’s eclectic social scene, Jean Cocteau drew in artists to the thriving community and forged creative links between the greatest artistic minds of the era.
His enormous creative output was multi-faceted, he not only painted and drew, but wrote poems (published by age nineteen), opera librettos (story-poems), designed stage sets, wrote novels, and directed films.
Cocteau worked cheek by jowl with the monumental figures of this remarkable period and his life was as dramatic, and at times tragic as that of any Modernist artist. The grief and mourning which Cocteau struggled through as a child, when his father committed suicide, was repeated when his young lover, Raymond Radiquet died tragically at the age of twenty-one.
Cocteau famously dealt with the blows that life had dealt him through opium, until the drug itself became the source of struggle. Both aiding and limiting his creative output, the drug appears in many of his novels and films, often represented as a deadly poison.
Cocteau’s cinematic works in particular, remain influential to filmmakers today. ’Blood of a Poet (1930)’ and ‘Beauty and the Beast (1946)’ in particular, are astonishing examples of Cocteau’s innovative method.
Cocteau’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ features the young, and strikingly handsome Jean Marais who, at the time of filming, was also Marchal’s biggest cinematic rival. Marais was not only a muse to Cocteau in 1946, but remained his lover until Cocteau’s death. Recognising the importance of Marchal’s rival to Cocteau at the time he made the drawing, invites the viewer to see something of Marais himself in the tender portrait.
This drawing powerfully reflects the creative and social life of the avant-garde Paris, which gathered around the brilliant Cocteau in the mid-twentieth century. This sensitive portrait is testament not only to Cocteau’s skill as a draftsman, but his creative partnerships and intimate personal relationships.
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