Monday, 13 June 2011

Hidden London: Jean Cocteau in the West End

I was once lucky enough to visit the sixteenth-century Saint-Pierre chapel in the south of France, famous for its murals, painted in the mid-1950s by Jean Cocteau. The French writer, artist and filmmaker was inspired, I seem to remember, by the connection between the fishing town (the chapel had been used as storage for fish until its restoration) and Christ's disciple as a fisher of men and fisherman himself, plus Django Reinhardt. There are some great pictures of it here.

If you can't travel that far don't worry, for there's another Cocteau mural just off Leicester Square, next door to the Prince Charles cinema. Cocteau completed a few of these works towards the end of his life and, in 1959, he tackled a side chapel in the Church of Notre Dame de France, newly rebuilt after it had been destroyed by bombing in World War II. There are all sorts of conspiracy theories surrounding the artist's imagery but look out for his self-portrait, turning away from the cross. There's a stream of photos here.

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