Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau, 1949

Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau was born on July 5, in 1889 (d.1963). Cocteau was a French poet, playwright, novelist, designer, filmmaker, visual artist and critic. Cocteau drew on a negative which Karsh used to create this final image.

Karsh wrote: “Time did not permit me, in 1949, to photograph M. Cocteau in his beautiful country home and he, of course, was busy with a thousand things… this master-of-all-arts and insatiable experimenter with life. We arranged, therefore, to take the pictures in a friend’s apartment, directly about Cocteau’s tiny Paris office.

“As a stage and film director, and in later years a painter, he understood at once what I was trying to do. He looked on with interest as the lighting was prepared and backgrounds chose, but, an old ‘pro’ himself, he did not attempt to direct me and I was pleased to have his confidence. He chatted freely about many things, his thoughts bubbling over, and his face, infinitely expressive, altering momentarily with his mood.”

See more portraits of Jean Cocteau.