Invisible messages

Diligent reading responded to her taste for the invisible. This dialogue extending through the ages, from antiquity to her contemporaries, is marked in particular by the works of Sophocles, Virgil, Rabelais, Shakespeare, Montaigne, Madame de Sévigné, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Barbey d'Aurevilly, Lautréamont, Rilke, Proust, Claudel, Apollinaire and Mallarmé. Poetic works constitute the heart of her library and the poetry to which Mademoiselle was deeply attached, nourished the deep relationships she had with Jean Cocteau, Max Jacob and Pierre Reverdy, who all dedicated poems and letters to her. This proximity to authors and their texts allowed her to find in her own expression - that of fashion - a modernity that defied its own temporality and projected itself far beyond it.

Gabrielle Chanel through Jean Cocteau’s eyes

The common point between Gabrielle Chanel’s style and Jean Cocteau’s drawings is the same desire to arrive at the exactness of line, sharp and precise, which goes straight to the essential without losing any of the subtlety.

Where Mademoiselle Chanel imagined a graphic outline that frees the silhouette and yet defines it as closely as possible, the portraits drawn by Jean Cocteau go towards a simplicity that eliminates unnecessary detail while retaining the model’s characteristics. So this portrait of Mademoiselle Chanel is intentionally reduced to contours but its allure and modern elegance are immediately identifiable.

JEAN COCTEAU

Coco Chanel
c. 1930

Gabrielle Chanel and Jean Cocteau met at the actress Cecile Sorel’s in 1917 and went on to develop unfailing friendship. A poet and artist of many talents, Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) initiated Gabrielle Chanel to contemporary art and introduced her to some of the major artists of the time. When in 1923 Raymond Radiguet (1903-1923), a gifted young writer and the companion of Jean Cocteau, contracted typhoid fever, it was Gabrielle Chanel who settled the hospital and funeral expenses. In 1924, she designed the costumes for the Blue Train ballet, with its libretto by Jean Cocteau, music by Darius Milhaud and stage curtain by Pablo Picasso.

JEAN COCTEAU

The professional secret Paris, Au Sans Pareil,
1922

KARL LAGERFELD FOR CHANEL

2013/2014 Métiers d'Art «Paris-Dallas»
Dress in black velvet embroidered with golden stars
Dress in black silk tulle embroidered with golden stars
Cruise 2011/2012
Dress in navy silk crêpe embroidered with comets, black silk tulle 2002/2003 Métiers d'Art
Pullover in black cashmere decorated with a «trompe l'oeil» embroidery of the «Comète» necklace created by Gabrielle Chanel in 1932

In 1937, she dressed Jean Marais for Jean Cocteau’s Oedipus Rex and went on to design costumes for five of his theatre pieces. Jean Cocteau sketched Chanel’s fashion models for various international magazines, and made subtle portraits of her, similar to those he left of another close friend, Misia.

Pierre Reverdy
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