Jean Cocteau was born in Maisons-Lafitte, France in 1889.
He threw himself into every new movement in the artistic world of France, drawing upon artists and musicians like Picasso, Satie and Milhaud to collaborate with him in production of ballets and dramatic performances. He designed for Diaghilev's ballets also.
He was closely associated with the world of fashion through both the theatre and his friendship with Elsa Schiaparelli who encouraged his non-comformist attitudes and applied his surreal themes to her fashion clothing and accessories. He designed embroidery motifs interspersed with poetic symbols, which she used on evening dresses.
Cocteau illustrated many covers for Harper's Bazaar in the 30's.
Other Cocteau's designs for Schiaparelli include: 1937 evening cape with sunburst, embroidered by Lesage, 1937 linen jacket with crossed hands trompe l'oeil motif
Jean Cocteau was also the inspiration for other designers, particularly Yves St. Laurent, who presented a satin evening jacket in his 1980-81 collection, which was embroidered on the back with a line from a Cocteau poem.
In 1980 Yves St. Laurent designed the costumes and sets for "Cher Monteur" a play by Jerome Kitty adapted by Jean Cocteau, presented at the Theatre de l'Athenee.
Some of Cocteau's most important work was in collaboration with Gabrielle Chanel, the great fashion designer. Between 1922 and 1937 she designed costumes for a whole cycle of his plays, including "Le Train Bleu" in 1924 which had a considerable impact on sportswear. He often sketched her and her fashions in his characteristic form of outline drawing.
Cocteau wrote and directed several films, and published 20 volumes of poetry. In 1957, he painted the interior of the St. Pierre Chapel at Villefrance.
He died in 1963, when he was 74 years old.
From September 2003 to January 2004, the Pompidou Centre in Paris put on a vast retrospective of the work of Jean Cocteau. On show were 335 drawings, 300 photographs, 22 paintings and a special projection room for showing his classic films. It was a great success and was visited by thousands.