Jean Cocteau

1934 by Cecil Beaton
Beaton Portraits 1925-1968 Remembered, National Portrait Gallery

Beaton Portraits 1925-1968 Remembered at the National Portrait Gallery has to be one of my favourite temporary exhibitions. Walking through was like being introduced to the major characters of the twentieth-century, as not only are Beaton’s photos beautiful but they manage to completely capture the personality of their models. His portrait of Jean Cocteau is certainly surreal, from the way Cocteau’s work hangs mid-air behind him – as if the sheets were crowding round their creator – to the large cog that Cocteau sits on. The light is intensely atmospheric and the expression on Cocteau’s face absorbing; we are bewitched and, like Cocteau himself, become engrossed in thought through watching him.


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