Francoise Gilot: Artist, writer and Picasso's former lover, dies at 101

3 months ago 32

Francoise Gilot with one of her paintingsImage source, Getty Images

By Paul Glynn

Entertainment reporter

Francoise Gilot, who emerged from the shadow of her lover Pablo Picasso to become acclaimed as an artist in her own right, has died at the age of 101.

An accomplished painter, Gilot also wrote a best-selling 1964 memoir detailing her tumultuous relationship with the Spanish giant of modern art.

She described the "hell" of being Picasso's mistress and artistic muse.

France's culture minister Rima Abdul Malak called Gilot "one of the most striking artists of her generation".

Her "disappearance plunges the world of art into great sadness as her personality was bright and inspiring", Malak said.

Huffington Post founder and Picasso biographer Arianna Huffington thanked Gilot for "the insights, love and wisdom you brought into my life".

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Born near Paris to a prosperous family of engineers and merchants in 1921, Gilot set up her first studio in her grandmother's apartment.

She studied English, philosophy and law at the insistence of her father, who was reluctant to see her become an artist. But privately she kept painting.

While living in occupied Paris during World War Two, she was briefly arrested for her part in an anti-Nazi demonstration under the Arc de Triomphe.

Aged 21, she met Picasso, 40 years her senior, at a restaurant and the pair went on to strike up a personal and professional relationship.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Pablo Picasso and Francoise Gilot, 1952

After the best part of a decade together, which brought them two children, she left him.

"Pablo was the greatest love of my life, but you had to take steps to protect yourself," Gilot said in Janet Hawley's 2021 book Artists in Conversation. "I did. I left before I was destroyed."

The Spaniard was unsuccessful in his attempts to block her candid memoir, Life with Picasso, and cut off contact with Gilot and their two children, Claude and Paloma.

The book inspired the 1996 film of the same name, starring Anthony Hopkins as Picasso and Natascha McElhone as Gilot.

Image source, Getty Images

Although Picasso reportedly pressured galleries not to show her works, Gilot continued to exhibit them, and they are now in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as well as the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

A 1965 portrait of her daughter, Paloma à la Guitare, sold for $1.3m (£1m) at auction in 2021.

Image source, John Phillips

Image caption,

Paloma à la Guitare by Francoise Gilot was sold at Sothebys in London in 2021

She ultimately moved to the US, marrying twice and giving birth to another child, as well as becoming chairwoman of the fine arts department at the University of Southern California.

A keen travel artist, in 2018, Gilot - then 96 - published a book of sketches made during trips to India, Senegal and Venice.

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