Max Jacob was a Jewish poet, painter, writer, and critic.
born in Quimper, Brittany, France. In
1897, he left the Paris Colonial School to
pursue a career as an artist. Jacob
shared a room with Pablo Picasso on the Boulevard
Voltaire. Picasso introduced him to Guillaume
Apollinaire, who in turn introduced him to
Georges Braque. He would become close friends
with Jean Cocteau, Christopher Wood and Amedeo
Modigliani, who painted his portrait in 1916.
He also befriended and encouraged the artist
Romanin, otherwise known as French politician
and future Resistance leader Jean Moulin.
Jacob, who had Jewish origins,
claimed to have had a vision of Christ in
1909 and converted to Catholicism. 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 heavy 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
His writings include the novel Saint Matorel (1911), the verses Le laboratoire central (1921), and Le défense de Tartuffe (1919), which expounds his philosophical and religious attitudes.
Eventually he would be
forced to move to Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire,
Loiret, where he hid during the German
occupation during World
War II. Jacob’s brother,
sister and brother-in-law were deported to Auschwitz where
they were killed by the Nazis.
On February 24, 1944,
Max Jacob was arrested by the Gestapo and
put into Orléans
prison. He was then transferred to a holding
camp in Drancy for
transport to a concentration
camp in Germany.
Max Jacob died in the Drancy deportation
camp on March 5, 1944, suffering from bronchial