Persons [ ] I am a lie that always speaks the truth | Jean Cocteau, 1889-1963

Jean Cocteau 1922

Jean Cocteau, 1922

“The day of my birth, my death began its walk. It is walking toward me, without hurrying.”

“I am a lie that always speaks the truth.”

“I am burning myself up and will always do so.”

“The poet doesn’t invent. He listens. ”

“If a poet has a dream, it is not of becoming famous, but of being believed.”

“Be yourself. The world worships the original.”

Jean Cocteau Paris 1918

Jean Cocteau, Paris, c.1918

“Art is a marriage of the conscious and the unconscious.”

“Art is science made clear.”

“An original artist is unable to copy. So he has only to copy in order to be original.”

“An artist cannot speak about his art anymore than a plant can discuss horticulture.”

“Listen carefully to the criticisms made of your work. Note just what it is about your work that critics don’t like – then cultivate it. That’s the only part of your work that’s individual and worth keeping.”

“Art produces ugly things which frequently become more beautiful with time. Fashion, on the other hand, produces beautiful things which always become ugly with time.”

“Living is a horizontal fall.”

Jacques Emile Blanche Jean Cocteau 1913

Jacques-Émile Blanche, Jean Cocteau, 1913

“When I write, I disturb. When I show a film, I disturb. When I exhibit my painting, I disturb, and I disturb if I don’t. I have a knack for disturbing.”

“I’ve always preferred mythology to history. History is truth that becomes an illusion. Mythology is an illusion that becomes reality.”

“When I think of all the books I have yet to read, I am sure that I am still happy.”

“Poetry, being elegance itself, cannot hope to achieve visibility. It insists on living its own life.”

“All spiritual journeys are martyrdoms”

“Emotion resulting from a work of art is only of value when it is not obtained by sentimental blackmail.”

Jean Cocteau by Raymond Voinquel 1947

Jean Cocteau by Raymond Voinquel, 1947

“The poet, by composing poems, uses a language that is neither dead nor living, that few people speak, and few people understand … We are the servants of an unknown force that lives within us, manipulates us, and dictates this language to us.”

“A little too much is just enough for me.”

“[W]e have a tendency to judge others according to ourselves.”

“True realism consists in revealing the surprising things which habit keeps covered and prevents us from seeing.”

“He who is affected by an insult is infected by it.”

“I only fear the death of others. For me, true death is that of the people I love”

Amedeo Modigliani Jean Cocteau 1916

Amedeo Modigliani, Jean Cocteau, 1916

“Victor Hugo was a madman who thought he was Victor Hugo”

“The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order.”

“We must believe in luck. For how else can we explain the success of those we don’t like? ”

“The prettiest dresses are worn to be taken off.”

“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things.”

“A half empty bottle of wine is also half full, but half a lie will never be half true”

Jean Cocteau multiple exposure Philippe Halsman 1949

Jean Cocteau, multiple exposure, Philippe Halsman, 1949

“There’s no such thing as love; only proof of love.”

“I’m not willing just to be tolerated. That wounds my love of love and of liberty.”

“It is excruciating to be an unbeliever with a spirit that is deeply religious… Poetry is a religion without hope.”

“We only serve as a model to the portrait of our fame”

Jean Cocteau, 1889-1963


Self-Portraits | Jean Cocteau, 1909-1939

Jean Cocteau | Photos by Germaine Krull (1929-1930)

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