Jean Cocteau is celebrated as one of the most enigmatic and multi-talented French artists of the early part of the twentieth century. Spanning visual art, drama, novels, poetry and film, Cocteau’s output was enriched by his close friendships with some of the most important artists and celebrities of his day. In his early career Cocteau was associated with the seminal novelist Marcel Proust, and during the First World War he came to befriend Pablo Picasso and Amadeo Modigliani.
Cocteau’s style bears the influence of Primitivism, often invoking the aesthetic as a realm of refined primordial naivety. The work is often graced by references to classical culture, such as the device of the lyre and most famously, his Orphic trilogy of feature films. It it hard to separate Cocteau’s visual art from his practice as a theatrical set and graphic designer; the work reflects the bold, flat quality of much French print culture of the time, and is notable for the artist’s elegant simplicity of line-making. Cocteau is considered a cornerstone in the history of gay aesthetics; his ability to transcend different disciplines and his cult of youth, fame and death mean he is often considered a forerunner of Andy Warhol.