Max Jacob, an important French poet of the early 20th century, was born to Jewish parents in 1876. Also a painter, he lived in extreme poverty. Jacob met Pablo Picasso in 1901. They shared a studio and later lived three doors from each other in Paris.

Jacob had a vision of Jesus in 1909 in a landscape he had painted. He became a Catholic but struggled with homosexuality and heavy drinking. “He fervently believed in his new faith,” said author Sydney Levy, “but it did not affect his personality or his art. . . . Christianity tolerated his presence in its midst with difficulty.”

In 1921 he moved to the small village of Saint-Beno?t-sur-Loire, where he remained until the Gestapo arrested him in February 1944. They took him to a holding camp in Drancy, where he grew gravely ill and died on March 5, 1944.

Gabriel Aghion, who directed a movie about Jacob, holds Jacob’s friends, especially Picasso, responsible for his death. “All of his friends . . . could have saved him, but they didn’t,” Aghion said. “They spent the war drinking champagne.”

“There is no need to do anything,” Picasso said after Jacob’s arrest. “Max is an imp. He does not need us to fly away from his prison.”


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