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Jean Cocteau (1889 – 1963)
Title: Willy, Polaire, Toby Chien et Colette au Palace de Glace, c. 1935
Medium: Original drawing, Chine Ink on paper, signed and dated below right “Jean” with a star.
Size: 270 x 210 mms
Note: The new film “Colette” directed by Wash Westmorland tells the life story of the subject of our dtrawing. This was executed for the work “Portraits – Souvenirs (1900 – 1914) by Grasset in 1935.
Collette was a scandalously talented performer, a practiced seductress of both men and women and the flamboyant author of some of the greatest works of 20th century literature. Having spent her childhood in the shadow of an overpowering mother, Colette escaped at age twenty into a turbulent marriage with the sexy, unscrupulous Willy–a literary charlatan who took credit for her bestselling Claudine novels. Weary of Willy’s sexual domination, Colette pursued an extremely public lesbian love affair with a niece of Napoleon’s. At forty, she gave birth to a daughter who bored her, at forty-seven she seduced her teenage stepson, and in her seventies she flirted with the Nazi occupiers of Paris, even though her beloved third husband, a Jew, had been arrested by the Gestapo. And all the while, this incomparable woman poured forth a torrent of masterpieces, including Gigi, Sido, Cheri, and Break of Day.
Colette’s husband, Willy, wrote “Claudine at school” and the stage version was a great success. The persona of “Claudine” was played by the actress Polaire. Willy had the two ladies dress as girlish twins and showed them off in Paris, in Polaire’s words, “Like one would walk a couple of greyhounds” Such outings played up the erotic ambiguity of the relationship between the two ladies and the portly and middle aged Willy. The play’s subject was a sexual one showing the appeal of schoolgirl precociousness in which Claudine and her classmates understood themselves as nubile subjects for older men, their teachers and each other. It was, in the nomenclature of the period “un success de scandale”
Cocteau was a great friend of Colette whose literary works he admired greatly. Our drawing, made in about 1935, harps back to an earlier period in Colette’s life and is an amusing portrait of the trio in an ice cream palace with their pet dog, Toby, sitting at a table enjoying an afternoon excess. They are attired in fashionable garb and obviously all smiling, laughing and enjoying the occasion.
Authentification: A certificate from the Jean Cocteau expert, Annie Guedras, comes with this item.
Aix-en-Provence,: Galerie d’Art du Conseil General des Bouches-du-Rhone: “Autour de Cocteau” April/June 2005 (Reproduced in the catalogue)
Paris, La Cinemmatheque Francaise “Sacha Guitry, une vie d’artiste” October 2007/February 2008 (Reproduced in the catalogue)
Evian, Palais Lumière “Jean Cocteau: Sur le pas d’un magician” February – May 2010. (Label verso)
J Cocteau “Portraits-Souvenir” Grasset, Paris, 1935, Reproduced in the catalogue on page 87
“Album Cocteau” Collection La Pleide, Gallimard, 2006, No 10, reproduced in the catalogue on page 11
Collection Dominique Bert, Le Louvre des Antquaires: Jean Cocteau Exhibition 23/3/2007 – 22/4/2007 – Illustrated in the catalogue number 28, page 26. This work is included in the section “ Jean Cocteau et le live illustre”