The Picasso Museum in Paris confirmed her death, which followed recent heart and lung ailments. Gilot’s life was intertwined with Picasso’s for a significant period, and she was known for her resilience and independence in a relationship marked by Picasso’s tumultuous nature.
Unlike some of the other women in Picasso’s life who suffered tragic fates, Gilot made the bold decision to leave him of her own accord. She recognized the destructive nature of their relationship and chose to protect herself. In interviews and her book “Life with Picasso,” Gilot spoke candidly about the complexities of their connection, acknowledging Picasso’s immense talent but also his cruelty and sadistic tendencies.
Gilot first encountered Picasso in 1943 when she was a young painter, and he was married to Olga Khokhlova and involved with Dora Maar. Their relationship blossomed, and they became lovers for a decade, having two children together. Picasso often painted Gilot, capturing her beauty and strength in his artworks.
In 1953, Gilot decided to leave Picasso and pursue her own artistic career. This decision was met with hostility from Picasso and his entourage, who ostracized her and dismissed her work. Despite the challenges she faced, Gilot remained steadfast in her artistic pursuits and later became a U.S. citizen.
Throughout her life, Gilot continued to create art, producing minimalist and colorful works that garnered recognition and were exhibited in prestigious institutions. She also wrote books, including her memoir about life with Picasso, which depicted him as a tyrant. Gilot’s contributions to the art world were celebrated, and her paintings found their place in renowned museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
Beyond her relationship with Picasso, Gilot had two significant relationships in her life: with painter Luc Simon, with whom she had a daughter, and with American virologist Jonas Salk, whom she married and lived with until his passing in 1995.
Françoise Gilot will be remembered for her remarkable talent as an artist, her courage to stand up to Picasso, and her resilience in the face of adversity. Her legacy as a painter and her contributions to modern art will continue to inspire and captivate future generations.
Gilot’s life journey was marked by a pursuit of artistic expression and a relentless spirit. Born on November 26, 1921, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, she came from a privileged background. Initially, her parents had hoped she would become a lawyer, but Gilot chose to follow her passion for art. By the age of 21, she had already established herself as a respected artist within the emerging School of Paris, a group that brought together French and emigré artists in the capital during the first half of the 20th century.
As Gilot’s artistic style evolved, she became known for her minimalist approach and use of vibrant colors. Over the course of her career, she produced an impressive body of work, signing at least 1,600 canvases and 3,600 works on paper. Her artistic contributions were widely recognized, and her paintings found their place in esteemed institutions, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
In addition to her memoir about Picasso, Gilot wrote a book in 1991 that delved into the complex relationship between Picasso and Henri Matisse, another towering figure in modern art. The book showcased Gilot’s deep understanding of the art world and her ability to provide insights into the lives of these renowned artists.
Later in life, Gilot found love and companionship with American virologist Jonas Salk, known for developing the first successful polio vaccine. The couple married in 1970 and resided in California until Salk’s death in 1995. Gilot’s experiences and relationships shaped her perspective as an artist and as a person, and she continued to paint well into her nineties.
Françoise Gilot’s passing marks the end of an era—a chapter in art history intimately intertwined with the enigmatic figure of Picasso. Her resilience, independence, and unwavering dedication to her art serve as an inspiration to aspiring artists and individuals alike. Her legacy will forever be etched in the annals of modern art, where her contributions continue to resonate with audiences around the world.