Francoise Gilot may be a far less familiar name than Pablo Picasso, but don’t let that fool you. The 93-year-old artist, former muse, and romantic partner of Picasso is producing just as much work as ever.
The French artist began a relationship with Picasso in 1943 when she was just 21-years-old. Picasso was forty years her senior, and the two of them had a love affair that lasted almost ten years into Gilot’s thirties. In that time, they had two children, Claude and Paloma.
But leaving Picasso was perhaps the best decision that she could have made. In a recent interview with Town and Country, Gilot suggests that her “total body of work, by her estimate, includes 1,800 paintings and 4,000 to 5,000 drawings.” She paints everyday, sometimes for as long as 20 hours at a time. She’s written a total of six books, including the New York Times best seller Life with Picasso, and the recently released About Women: Conversations Between a Writer and a Painter, with Lisa Alther.
In the interview, Gilot does make some statements that might be disagreeable, but that have plenty to do with her French upbringing and European attitude, saying that “On the whole, American women can be too rigid,” and that in the US, there is “much more combativeness and less kindness between the sexes. So what if a man whistles at you on the street? Enjoy it. Feminine beauty is a gift to be shared with the world.” She also believes that there has been an exaggeration of the gender gap for women in the arts, that the most important thing is how hard you work. “Are you capable of inventing something new? That’s where it starts.”
Whether or not you disagree with her more “European” philosophy on life and the sexes, her tenacity is undeniable. She is the only one of Picasso’s romantic partners to leave him, telling Vogue in 2012, “I knew that if I did not leave Pablo, he would devour me.” And so she did, much to the artist’s dismay, with Picasso telling her that she would never amount to more than a curiosity, having been known only through him. Regardless, she devoted her life to her work, rather than Picasso or celebrity or publicity, saying, “I avoided biographers. I did not attend cocktail parties. I was working instead.”
She concludes her the interview with talk of goddesses: “A goddess is a goddess because she sees things from higher up,” she says, and with thousands of pieces of work, a catalogue of literature behind her, and no signs of slowing down any time soon, we trust that it takes one to know one.
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