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Nightmare (Cauchemar)

A work made of graphite with smudging on ivory wove paper.
© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

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  • A work made of graphite with smudging on ivory wove paper.


c. 1924


Jean Cocteau
French, 1889-1963

About this artwork

Cocteau is best known for his work as a writer and film director. He received his earliest notoriety for the 1917 ballet, Parade, that he produced for Diaghilev, with choreography by Leonide Massine, sets by Pablo Picasso, and music by Erik Satie. It was for this work that Guillaume Apollinaire, writing critically, coined the prophetic term “surreal.” Cocteau saw himself as the invisible man who made the invisible world visible. Nightmare is clearly an image drawn from the subconscious, a condition that was exaggerated by Cocteau’s addiction to opium, a drug he began using to abate his depression after the death in 1923 of his protege, the young novelist Raymond Radiguet. In Nightmare the dismembered hand and its exaggerated size bespeak the effect of opium on a keen and alert intellect in agony. The artist described these violently expressive drawings as “screams of suffering in slow motion.”


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Prints and Drawings


Jean Cocteau


Nightmare (Cauchemar)


France (Artist's nationality)




Graphite with smudging on ivory wove paper


23.7 × 26.9 cm (9 3/8 × 10 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Frank B. Hubachek and Mary Reynolds Funds; Frank B. Hubachek Endowment

Reference Number



© 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Extended information about this artwork

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