1876-07-12

MAX JACOB, French poet, born (d. 1944); Born in Quimper, Britttany, 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, 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. 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 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 Göuel, 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.

On February 24, 1944 Max Jacob, too, was arrested by the Gestapo and put into Orleans 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 5th.