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Françoise Gilot
Born Marie Françoise Gilot
(1921-11-26) November 26, 1921 (age 92)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Nationality French
Education Cambridge University, British Institute in Paris
Known for Painting

Françoise Gilot (born November 26, 1921) is a French painter and bestselling author. She is also known as the lover and artistic muse of Pablo Picasso from 1944 to 1953, and the mother of his children, Claude Picasso and Paloma Picasso. She later married the American vaccine pioneer, Jonas Salk. Gilot was more than just Picasso's lover: she was a mother, organizer, muse, conversation partner, hostess, artist, and an art critic.[1] In 1973 Gilot was appointed as the Art Director of the scholarly journal "Virginia Woolf Quarterly." In 1976 she was made a member of the board of the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Southern California. She held summer courses there and took on organizational responsibilities until 1983. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s she designed costumes, stage sets, and masks for productions at the Guggenheim in New York.[1] She was awarded a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, in 1990.[2]

Early life[edit]

Gilot was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, to Emile and Madeleine Renoult-Gilot. Her father was a businessman and agronomist, and her mother was a watercolor artist. Her father was a strict man. Gilot began writing with her left hand as a young child, but at the age of four her father forced her to write with her right hand. From this treatment, Gilot became ambidextrous. She had decided at the age of five to become a painter. The following year her mother tutored her in art, beginning with watercolors and India Ink. Gilot was then taught by her mother's art teacher, Mlle. Meuge, for six years.[3] She studied English literature at Cambridge University and the British Institute in Paris (now University of London Institute in Paris).[4] While training to be a lawyer, Gilot was known to skip morning law classes to pursue her true passion: art. She graduated from the Sorbonne with a B.A. in Philosophy in 1938 and from Cambridge University with a degree in English in 1939.[5] Gilot had her first exhibition of paintings in Paris in 1943.[6]


Francoise's father was a well-educated man who worked as a chemical manufacturer and agronomist, and he wanted his daughter to be just as educated as he. Emile oversaw his daughter's education very closely. Gilot was tutored at home beginning at a young age. By the time Gilot was six years old she had a good knowledge of Greek mythology, and by the age of fourteen she was reading books by Poe, Baudelaire, and Alfred Jarry.[7] While Gilot's father had hoped she would go to school to become a scientist or lawyer, she was frequenting museums in Europe to understand and gain an appreciation for the masters. When Gilot was seventeen she attended the Sorbonne and the British Institute in Paris and had a baccalaureate degree in Philosophy.[8] She received her English Literature degree from Cambridge University. During 1939 Gilot's father still wanted her to complete a degree in international law, and out of fear that Paris would be bombed during the war, Gilot was sent to Rennes, France to begin law school. At the age of 19 she abandoned her studies in law to devote her life to art. She was mentored by the artist Endre Rozsda.[1] In 1942 after abandoning law several times and returning on the insistence by her father, Gilot studied law for a second year and passed her written exams, but failed her orals.[9]


At 21, Gilot met Pablo Picasso, then 61. Picasso first saw Gilot in a restaurant in the spring of 1943.[1] His mistress, Dora Maar, was devastated to learn that Picasso was replacing her with the much younger artist. After Picasso's and Gilot's meeting she moved in with him in 1946 and they spent almost ten years together. Those years revolved around art, but it is believed by some art historians that Gilot's relationship with Picasso is what cut short her artistic career. Picasso and Gilot never married, but they did have two children together. Their son, Claude, was born in 1947 and their daughter, Paloma, was born in 1949.[1] During their ten years together Gilot was often harassed on the streets of Paris by Picasso's legal wife, Olga Khokhlova, a former Russian ballet dancer.[10][11] Eleven years after their separation, Gilot wrote Life with Picasso (with the art critic Carlton Lake),[12] a book that sold over one million copies in dozens of languages, despite an unsuccessful legal challenge from Picasso attempting to stop its publication. From then on, Picasso refused to see Claude or Paloma ever again.[12]

Gilot's work[edit]

Francoise Gilot was introduced to art at a young age by her mother and grandmother. Her grandmother had held a party when Francoise was about five years old. A certain man caught Gilot's eye as being interesting and asked her grandmother who the man was. It turned out to be a painter, Emile Mairet.[13] Gilot's father became close friends with the painter and Francoise would often tag along to visit his studio.[7] At age six Francoise's mother began teaching her art with the exception of drawing. Her mother believed artists become too dependent on erasers and instead taught Francoise in watercolor and India ink. If she made a mistake she would have to make it intentional to her work. By the age of thirteen she began being tutored by Mlle Meuge and continued for six years.[13] At the age of fourteen she was introduced to ceramics, and another year later she studied with the Post-Impressionist, Jacques Beurdeley.[7] Finally, at the age of 21 she met Picasso. Although Picasso had influenced Francoise Gilot's work as a cubist painter, she developed her own style. She avoided the sharp edges and angular forms that Picasso used. Instead, she used organic figures. During the war, Gilot's father attempted to save the most valuable household belongings by moving them, but the truck was bombed by the Germans, including Gilot's drawings and watercolors.[1]

Later life[edit]

Gilot married the artist Luc Simon in 1955.[1] The couple divorced in 1962. They had a daughter, Aurelia.

In 1969, Gilot was introduced to Jonas Salk, the polio vaccine pioneer,[14] at the home of mutual friends in La Jolla, California. Their shared appreciation of architecture led to a brief courtship and they were married in 1970 in Paris.[15] They remained married until Salk's death in 1995. During her marriage, she continued painting in New York, La Jolla, and Paris.[16]

As of April 2002 Gilot lives in New York City and Paris, working on behalf of the Salk Institute in California, and continues to exhibit her work internationally.[14] She exhibited as recently as May 2012 at the Gagosian Gallery in New York City. [17]


  • Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso, McGraw-Hill, 1964; Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1989, ISBN 978-0-385-26186-9
  • Françoise Gilot, Le regard et son Masque, Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1975, ISBN 978-2-7021-0092-9 – focuses on her development as an artist.
  • Françoise Gilot, Interface: the painter and the mask, Press at California State University, Fresno, 1983
  • Barbara Haskell, Francoise gilot: an artist's journey 1943-1987, California State Univ, 1987, ISBN 978-0-912201-12-2; Little, Brown, 1989.
  • Françoise Gilot, Matisse and Picasso: A Friendship in Art, Doubleday, 1990, ISBN 978-0-385-26044-2; New York: Anchor Books, 1992, ISBN 978-0-385-42241-3



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gilot, Francoise and Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz. Francoise Gilot: Painting – Malerei. Germany: Kerber Verlag, 2003.
  2. ^ "Vincent Mann Gallery New Orleans: Francoise Gilot, Luc Didier". Vincentmanngallery.com. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  3. ^ "Francoise Gilot Archives". Francoisegilot.com. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  4. ^ "Francoise Gilot Archives". Francoisegilot.com. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  5. ^ "WIC Biography - Francoise Gilot". Wic.org. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  6. ^ "Francoise Gilot". Bauerart.com. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  7. ^ a b c Gilot, Francoise, Monograph 1940-2000. Lausanne: Sylvio Acatos, 2000.
  8. ^ "Francoise Gilot: Artist of the World." WIC Biography. http://www.wic.org/bio/fgilot.htm.
  9. ^ Gilot, Francoise. "The F. Gilot Archives." Francoise Gilot. http://www.francoisegilot.com/frames.html.
  10. ^ Museu Picasso Barcelona
  11. ^ Surviving Picasso. DVD. Directed by James Ivory. Culver City, CA: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 1996.
  12. ^ a b Michael Kimmelman (April 28, 1996), Picasso's Family Album New York Times.
  13. ^ a b Gilot, Francoise. "The F. Gilot Archives." Francoise Gilot. http://www.francoisegilot.com/frames.html
  14. ^ a b http://www.smithsonianmag.si.edu/smithsonian/issues02/apr02/indelible.html
  15. ^ "Early Years - 1940s - 1950s - 1960s - 1970s - 1980s - 1990s - 2000s 1960 - 1969". Francoisegilot.com. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  16. ^ Irene Lacher (March 6, 1991). "A Place of Her Own". The Los Angeles Times. 
  17. ^ Vogue Magazine: April 2012 Life After Picasso, Francoise Gilot

External links[edit]

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172 news items

Daily Review

Daily Review
Thu, 18 Sep 2014 18:16:11 -0700

... later, having moved to Adelaide just in time to be burnt out on Ash Wednesday, 1983, my wife and I happened to entertain a small French woman to lunch during Adelaide Writers' Week, the only woman who ever walked out on Picasso — Francoise Gilot.

New York Observer

New York Observer
Wed, 10 Sep 2014 08:33:45 -0700

After a series of delays actually getting in (one editor likened the experience to boarding a flight at JFK), Ms. Burch, known for her kitchy, colorful prints and silhouettes perfect for lunching in Palm Beach, sent out a refined collection inspired by ...
Tue, 09 Sep 2014 06:51:26 -0700

Tory Burch comes across as the sweetest, gentlest soul on Seventh Avenue, but her collections always seem to end up hinting at violent passion. Last season, it was armored medievalism. For Spring, Burch's muse was Françoise Gilot. "Because she was a ...
Wed, 10 Sep 2014 20:11:15 -0700

September 10, 2014 11:50 PM. Share; Comment. Take a behind-the-scenes look at Tory Burch's Spring/Summer 2015 collection, inspired by Francoise Gilot, with backstage beauty, interviews, runway, and more! Advertisement—Continue Reading Below.
Los Angeles Times
Wed, 10 Sep 2014 09:06:12 -0700

There was a back-to-basics vibe, inspired by the time that artist Francoise Gilot spent living with Pablo Picasso in Vallauris in the south of France in the late '40s and early '50s. During that time, Picasso created primitivist pottery featuring bold ...
Financial Times
Wed, 10 Sep 2014 00:26:31 -0700

Tory Burch offered up an homage to 1950s Provence, fuelled by her explorations of the relationship between artists Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso and taking shape in crisply executed sun-bleached separates, pretty faux-bohème pieces with an ...

New York Daily News

New York Daily News
Tue, 09 Sep 2014 18:26:39 -0700

Inspired by Francoise Gilot, Picasso's longtime lover, and their time in France, she presented a mixed bag of textured raffia tweeds, jacquard knits, crochet, burlap and fringe. $esc.html($image.alt) View Gallery New York Fashion Week: Day 6.

Design & Trend

Design & Trend
Fri, 12 Sep 2014 07:26:15 -0700

And this discovery tells us that," said senior author of the work Greg Lemke, Salk professor of molecular neurobiology and the holder of Salk's Françoise Gilot-Salk Chair. The garbage-disposing cells, known as macrophages, have arrays of receptors on ...

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