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Mourning for Françoise Gilot: painter and Picasso lover died


She was considered Picasso’s muse – and the only woman who ever left him. But Françoise Gilot herself also found great recognition in the art world, until her death at the age of 101.

Actually, it doesn’t do justice to Françoise Gilot’s artistic work: she was the only woman who left Picasso – and not the other way around. Picasso asked her doubtfully whether she thought that people would continue to be interested in her afterwards.

He was wrong with his doubt: the mother of Paloma and Claude Picasso found recognition in the art world as a painter for over 60 years. Two years ago, her picture “Paloma á la Guitare” was auctioned for the equivalent of more than one million euros.

She started drawing when she was five, Gilot once told PBS in an interview. “Even at school. That irritated my teachers. They asked: Do you even listen? I said yes. The fact that I paint doesn’t stop me from listening.”

“You are born with the talent for art or not”

Everyone in her family could have drawn and painted well. As a young woman, she set up a studio with her grandmother in the bourgeois Parisian suburb where Gilot was born in 1921.

Her mother was a watercolor painter and her father a successful businessman. He urged her to go to law school. Which she never regretted, as Gilot said. “I also learned to play the piano, although I knew I wasn’t talented. I love music but have no talent for it. You are born with a talent for the arts or you aren’t.”

Then Wehrmacht soldiers parade on the Champs-Élysées. The Nazi occupation of their country influenced Gilot. In 1943, Françoise Gilot met Picasso, who was around 40 years her senior. “It started as a friendship, although Picasso would have liked to continue. But I wasn’t convinced that it was a good idea.”

Still an “It Girl” at 100

The first three years with Picasso were the best because they only saw each other twice a month, Gilot once told the weekly Paris Match. The couple had children Claude and Paloma. But Picasso was always more dominant and moody. There she went, as she had prophesied from the beginning, she told the broadcaster CBS. “I said: I’m here because I love you. But the day I don’t love you anymore, I’ll go.” Then she laughs, simulating Picasso: “Ha ha ha, nobody leaves a man like me.” And she said, “Wait and see.”

After her time with Picasso, Gilot had a brief marriage to the painter Luc Simon, who had a daughter, Aurelia. In the 1970s she moved to New York and married the discoverer of the polio vaccine against polio, Jonas Salk, with whom she remained together until his death in 1995. The artist remained creative even at over 100 years old. The US media even celebrate her as an “It Girl”, a social figure.

She turned 100 and then asked herself why not more. Françoise Gilot was already suffering from heart and lung problems, from which she died in a Manhattan hospital. Gilot once told the New York Times: She will not make a big deal out of everything and will not make herself more than she is. Or less.