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Max Jacob
(July 12, 1876 - March 5, 1944) France

Max Jacob

Poet, painter, writer and critic


Born in Quimper, Brittany, France, from Jew parents, he enrolled in the Paris Colonial School, which he left in 1897 for an artistic career. He shared a room with Pablo Picasso, who introduced him to Guillaume Apollinaire, who in turn introduced him to Georges Braque. He would become close friends with Jean Cocteau and Amedeo Modigliani, who painted his portrait (see below) in 1916.

Jacob claimed to have had a vision of Christ in 1909, and in 1915 converted to Catholicism (christened Cyprien). But, despite his hopes, his new religion could not rid him of his homosexual longings, about which he once said, "If heaven witnesses my regrets, heaven will pardon me for the pleasures which it knows are involuntary."

Notorious for his heaving drinking, Jacob said he joined the artistic community in Montparnasse to "sin disgracefully." In 1915, he arrived drunk at the funeral of Picasso's lover, Eva Gödel, and attempted to seduce the driver of the hearse.

Max Jacob is regarded as an important link between the symbolists and the surrealists, as can be seen in his prose poems Le cornet à dés (Dice Box, 1917) and in his paintings, exhibitions of which were held in New York City in 1930 and 1938.

Max JacobHis writings include the novel Saint Matorel (1911), and Filibuth; ou La Montre en or (1922); his verse, usually light and ironic, includes Le laboratoire central (1921), Fond de l'eau (1927) and Rivages (1932).

Prose and poetry are combined in his Défense de Tartufe (1919) and the play Le Siège de Jérusalem: drame céleste (1912-14). His critical study, Art poétique (1922), had wide influence.

Eventually he would be forced to move to Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, Loiret, where he was hiding during the German occupation of World War II. Jacob's brother was deported to Auschwitz and then his sister Mirthé-Léa and her husband were deported where they were murdered by the Nazis.

On February 24, 1944 Max Jacob too was arrested by the Gestapo (both because of his Jewish extraction and his homosexuality) and put into Orléans prison then transferred to a concentration camp in Drancy where he died, due to inadequate medical treatment, from bronchial pneumonia.

First interred in Ivry, after the war ended in 1945 his remains were transferred to Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire cemetery.


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