Francoise Gilot, a highly acclaimed painter, passed away at the age of 101, leaving behind a remarkable artistic legacy. While she gained recognition for her extraordinary talent, Gilot was often overshadowed by her tumultuous relationship with Pablo Picasso, from whom she eventually separated.
Aurelia Engel, Gilot’s daughter, informed the Associated Press that her mother passed away in a New York hospital, where she had resided for many years. Engel expressed her mother’s immense artistic abilities and expressed the family’s commitment to preserving and promoting Gilot’s remarkable paintings and artistic contributions.
Despite being already respected as one of the prominent artists of the emerging School of Paris, which consisted of French and immigrant artists in the capital during the first half of the 20th century when she met Picasso, Gilot voiced her frustration about being primarily known for her association with the renowned painter.
Their relationship began in 1943 when Gilot was 21, and Picasso was in his sixties, already a father of two. Picasso frequently portrayed Gilot in his paintings, depicting her as the radiant and confident “Woman-Flower” in 1946 and capturing her pregnancy in “Femme Assise” in 1949. Although they never married, unlike other significant women in Picasso’s life, Gilot made the brave decision to walk away.
Reflecting on her decision to leave, Gilot confided in Janet Hawley’s book “Artists and Conversation,” stating, “Pablo was the greatest love of my life, but you had to take steps to protect yourself. I did, I left before I was destroyed.” She empathized with Picasso’s previous partners who endured various hardships, including depression, suicide, and nervous breakdowns.
Engel, now 66, spoke about her mother’s departure from Picasso, remarking, “He never saw it coming. She was there because she loved him and believed deeply in the incredible passion for art they both shared. But she left as a free, albeit very young, and independent person.” Gilot, born on November 26, 1921, in affluent Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris, was an only child.
Engel revealed that her mother knew she wanted to be a painter at the age of five, and although her parents initially steered her toward studying law, she abandoned it to pursue her artistic passion. Gilot held her first exhibition in 1943, a significant achievement considering the backdrop of Nazi occupation in France at the time.
After leaving Picasso in 1953, Gilot reunited with her former friend, artist Luc Simon, and married him in 1955. They had a daughter, Engel, but ultimately divorced in 1962. In 1970, Gilot married Jonas Salk, the American virologist renowned for developing the polio vaccine. She divided her time between France and the United States, becoming a US citizen and settling permanently in New York in 1995 after Salk’s death.
Gilot’s artwork has been showcased in prestigious museums worldwide, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Over the years, her artistic creations have increased significantly in value, with notable sales like “Paloma à la Guitare” (1965) fetching $1.3 million at Sotheby’s in 2021, described as a “mesmerizingly bold portrait.”
Simon Shaw, Sotheby’s vice chairman for global fine art, expressed satisfaction in witnessing Gilot’s paintings receiving the recognition they truly deserved over the past decade. He emphasized that Gilot should not be seen merely as a muse to Picasso but as an independent artist with a unique artistic journey filled with vibrant colors, energy, and joy