Max Jacob

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Max Jacob (July 12, 1876 – March 5, 1944) was a French poet, painter, writer, and critic.

After spending his childhood in Quimper, Brittany, France, he enrolled in the Paris Colonial School, which he left in 1897 for an artistic career. On the Boulevard Voltaire, 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, Jean Hugo, 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. Moulin's famous nom de guerre Max is presumed to be selected in honor of Jacob.

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Jacob, who had Jewish origins, claimed to have had a vision of Christ in 1909, and converted to Catholicism.

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, illustrations by Jean Hugo) and in his paintings, exhibitions of which were held in New York City in 1930 and 1938.

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 was hiding during the German occupation of World War II. Jewish by birth, 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 and put into Orléans prison. He was then transferred to a holding camp in Drancy for transport to a concentration camp in Germany. However, said to be suffering from bronchial pneumonia, Max Jacob died in the Drancy deportation camp on March 5.

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