LUXURYCULTURE.COM - Maison Cocteau: An Artist Refuge


Jean Cocteau found refuge at a country house outside of Paris in which he integrated elements from his poems, paintings and films. After a renovation spearheaded by Pierre Bergé, Maison Cocteau is now open to the public.

“It is the house that was waiting for me. I inhabit its refuge, far from the bells of the Palais-Royal. It shows me the example of the absurd magnificent stubbornness of the vegetable kingdom. I relive the memories of former gardens where I used to dream of Paris, as later I would dream, in Paris, of fleeing. The water of the moat and the sunshine paint on the walls of my room their shimmering false marbles. Everywhere spring is jubilant.”
- Jean Cocteau, The Difficulty of being

On the tombstone of Jean Cocteau at Milly-la-Forêt, France, his epitaph reads: “I remain with you.” They are words that are given new resonance with the opening of Maison Cocteau, his nearby country home where the artist spent the last 17 years of his life, from 1947 to 1963. After five years of work and €4million of renovation, largely paid for by Pierre Bergé, Maison Cocteau opened to the public on June 24.

It was here, an hour south of Paris, that the poet, painter and film-maker lived with his partner Edouard “Doudou” Dermit and created some of his most important work, including the films Beauty and the Beast and Testament d’Orphee.

Indeed, the house itself is one of Cocteau’s most impressive works of art. His collection of antiques and objets d’art, as well as works by Picasso, Warhol, Modigliani and Buffet, were all carefully preserved by Doudou, until his own death in 1995. Cocteau also integrated set elements from his films, in particular sculptures, into the gardens.

In renovating Maison Cocteau, the architect Francois Magendie and a team led by Dominique Paini and Nathalie Criniere, who organized the Jean Cocteau retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in 2003, infused the house with yet more of the artist’s work. While the main rooms have all been meticulously restored, the ground floor kitchens have been converted into a cinema screening films by and about the artist. Photographs, letters and newspapers, which recall important moments from Cocteau’s life, are found throughout. It is all evidence which proves that Maison Cocteau, was indeed the artist’s “refuge”.

The driving force behind the renovation of Maison Cocteau is Pierre Bergé, partner of the late Yves Saint Laurent. While the fashion designer was a collector of Cocteau’s work, Bergé was a great friend of Cocteau’s companion, Edouard “Doudou” Dermit. Here, Bergé writes on his plans for the house.

“Jean Cocteau purchased his home in Milly- la-Forêt in 1947. He lived there for the last seventeen years of his life. Once he had attained success, Milly became a sort of refuge, far from society life. The irises and peonies, the fallen leaves and climbing ivy, the fruit trees in the orchard, the cats and dogs were always there for him.

The poet could come to rest, be with his companion, Edouard Dermit, welcome friends, read and write in the gardens, cross the two little bridges over the chateau moat and the river to go stroll in the park, work late in his office or his attic studio.

Today, that house is intact thanks to Edouard Dermit, who, after Cocteau’s death, preciously preserved an exceptional inheritance that included antique furniture, objets
d’art, works by Manet, Doré, Picasso, Bérard...

“Doudou” Dermit, who died in 1995, also set aside 500 of Cocteau’s works for this house. We will show a first selection of those works in June.

In addition, visitors will be able to admire some of the most beautiful existing portraits of Cocteau, by Picasso, Warhol, Blanche, Modigliani, Man Ray, etc. As it opens to the public, the house of the poet and of emotion becomes an exceptional place for remembering and sharing.”

Pierre Bergé
President of the Board of Governors of the Maison Cocteau

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