Max Jacob

1876 1944
(France) 1876 /   (France) 1944

Max Jacob’s parents were tailors and antique dealers. Max Jacob studied at the Lycée de la Tour-d’Auvergne (high school) in Quimper. He was declared unfit for military service, and left for Paris in 1897, where he produced his first oil paintings. During that time, as he was keen on writing, he wrote artistic columns for the journals Moniteur des Arts and La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, under the name Léon David. In 1901, he met the young Picasso and settled with him in boulevard Voltaire.

Max Jacob was a poet, a novelist, a playwright, an art critic, and a painter. He produced some oil paintings, but mainly gouaches, and depicted views of Brittany and circus scenes. He worked several small jobs (as a law clerk, private tutor, salesman at the Paris-France store) before publishing his first book Histoire du Roi Kaboul Ier et du marmiton Gauwain (publisher Picard et Kahn). He associated with painters and poets at the Bateau-Lavoir. He lived in 7 Rue Ravignan, and settled at the Bateau-Lavoir in 1912. He made friends with Van Dongen, Francis Carco and Roland Dorgelès. In the spring of 1913, Max Jacob was in Céret with Picasso. In 1914, he converted to Christianity. He was baptized on 18 February 1915 at the Notre-Dame- de-Sion chapel in Paris, and asked Picasso to be his godfather.

From 1916, he spent time in Montparnasse and published several books, including Le Cornet à dés, Le Phanérogame and Les Alliés sont en Arménie. In 1921, Max Jacob left Paris and withdrew in the monastery in Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire. Between 1924 and 1926, he travelled several times to Italy and Spain, and returned to Paris in 1928. In 1933, he was decorated Knight of the Legion of Honor. In 1939, he returned to live in Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire « in the shade of a church ».

In 1942, the Jewish yellow badge was put on his family’s story in Quimper. The next year, his brother was deported to Auschwitz, shortly before his little sister had the same fate. On 24 February 1944, Max Jacob was arrested by the French police in Saint-Benoît- sur-Loire, where he had withdrawn from society. He was transferred to the Drancy internment camp on 28 February, and was sent to the infirmary of the camp on 2 March. Max Jacob died of congestion of the lungs on 5 March. He was sixty-eight years old. He left his mark on French poetry.