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Jean Cocteau (French, 1889-1963)



Who was painter/writer Jean Cocteau?

Jean Cocteau is a legendary writer, artist, filmmaker and philosopher whose work in the 20th century helped to define avant-garde art and usher in a new age of cinema and art. Though perhaps best known for his novels, his visual art was also extremely popular, both during Cocteau’s life and after, making him a true multi-disciplinary artist and genuine genius. His work in the early 1920s and on was extremely prolific and he created artwork that is still enjoyed, critiqued, and written about to this day. 

The 1940s marked the start of Cocteau’s collaborations with Edith Piaf, the renowned singer and actor, who would fill the role of muse for Cocteau for the rest of their lives. Indeed, Cocteau died a day after Piaf of a heart attack. Many believe that Cocteau’s death was caused by simply hearing the news of the passing of the famous chanteuse. During his life, Cocteau was celebrated by the art establishment. He received awards and honors from the Academie Francaise, The Mark Twain Academy, the Cannes Film Festival (of which he was honorary president) and the President of the Jazz Academy. His films, novels, and visual art continue to inspire artists and critics alike, representing a lasting legacy and oversized footprint on the landscape of 20th-century art. 

What kind of art did Jean Cocteau make?

Jean Cocteau was a true renaissance man. His work in film, visual art, novels, and criticism is virtually unparalleled by anyone else in the twentieth century -- both in their number and quality. Perhaps best known for his novels, his paintings and drawings are equally as impressive. His profiles of his friends and colleagues are extremely interesting and even his doodles have come up for auction with prestigious houses. Some of the more fun pieces include stained glass, mixed media (a cup with a face painted on it) and crayon and paper drawings of cats. Truly, Cocteau could make anything into high art. 

How did Jean Cocteau get started?

Jean Cocteau was a product of his time, coming of age at a time when France and Paris were at their intellectual peak. His early life was spent in the company of many famous writers and artists, including Marcel Proust, Andre Gide, and Federico de Madrazo y Ochoa. These artists served as teachers, inspirations, and collaborators for the nascent artist. Cocteau traveled in heady circles that sound increasingly like a who’s who of twentieth-century artists. He worked with Pablo Picasso on an opera with music by Erik Satie and Maurice Ravel. Cocteau continued to push boundaries throughout the course of a varied and illustrious career. When he died in 1963 he had produced major work in film, novels, poetry, painting, mixed media, and almost any other art form you could think of. Cocteau was one of a kind, a triumph of the human spirit and an inspiration for artists and collectors around the world. 

How much are Jean Cocteau paintings and drawings worth?

It’s almost impossible to put a set price tag because of the sheer amount of art that has been sold (over 3310 auction records are listed as of 2020). For a drawing or a doodle, you could expect to pay only a few hundred dollars, while larger, more intense projects can sell for up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. His highest-selling piece was Opium (1930) a pen and ink drawing which sold for $991,980 in 2012. This piece represents an outlier, as his next highest amount is for MEDITERRANEE - 1952 (1952) which sold for $175,010 in 2014. That said, Cocteau is a true genius, and a smart collector would be wise to snap up a piece of his if it became available. 

Where to buy Jean Cocteau paintings for sale?

See works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value Jean Cocteau paintings?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services department.

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