While many remember Jean Marais (born 11th December 1913) as a French actor – starring in over 100 films – he also possessed a plethora of other talents; including painting, drawing, sculpture, and most importantly, ceramics.
We take a look at an incredibly rare, original poster he painted titled ‘La journée de la poterie á Vallauris’ – a beguiling red and white design influenced by the world-renowned ceramics centre of Vallauris where he once lived, and the influence of lover and visual artist Jean Cocteau.
When Jean Marais was in his early twenties, the aspiring actor discovered Jean Cocteau through his drawings. Infatuated by his avant-garde designs, Marais made it his mission to meet the influential artist.
In 1937, his dream came true when he met Cocteau in Paris. Within 10 days, the two were deeply in love. Their relationship was extremely passionate and had a huge impact on both their artistic outlets.
Cocteau cast Marais in his cinematic projects, including the 1946 version of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and the French drama ‘Orpheus’. As an important member of the avant-garde, Cocteau also enjoyed creating fluid-style prints influenced by Surrealism. His decorative aesthetic heavily influenced Marais’ new vocation.
Although he sadly lost Cocteau in 1963 to a heart attack, Marais continued his legacy through with his ceramics.
After he had completed an apprenticeship in pottery, he moved to Vallauris, a small town in the South of France and a world-renowned ceramics centre.
The town was renowned for hosting annual events to promote and reward artistic creation in the field of ceramics, which attracted the attention of international artists such as Picasso.
In 1985 Marais was commissioned to produce a poster promoting the town’s annual pottery festival, held in August each year.
Marais created ‘La journée de la poterie á Vallauris’ a vivid red poster featuring a man morphing into a vase – a metaphor for the potter’s dedication to their work in clay.
Painted on paper by Marais, this original artwork would have been used as the master copy from which a run of lithographic poster editions were printed to promote the event.
The stylised figure with exaggerated eyes and hands looping through the vase handles is reminiscent of Cocteau’s avant-garde style.
Marais’ use of thin black lines and italicised calligraphy is similar to the angel-like figure in ‘Chapelle Saint Pierre, Villefranche sur Mer’, produced by Cocteau in anticipation for his largest architectural feat – decorating The Saint-Pierre chapel in Villefranche-sur-Mer.
Marias produced the annual pottery festival poster for the next 15 years and, until his death in 1998, he also played an active role in the local community.
Inspired by his fellow ceramicists, Marias gifted ‘La Rebellissière’, a multi-headed statue, to the council of Vallauris which still remains in the lower section of the town.
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Translated from French as, ‘A special day of pottery in Vallauris, 11th August 1985; a big party’, this incredibly rare poster was created by French actor and artist Jean Marais. We take a look at how the field of ceramics and his relationship with Jean Cocteau influenced his design.
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