François Guillot More than Picasso’s Muse –

Leaving Picasso, as Francois Gilot did in 1953, could not remove his influence on his own art and life. The final lines of his most notable work, the 1964 bestseller, are ambiguous. Life with Picasso, co-wrote with Carlton Lake: When she left Picasso, “he burned all the bridges that connected me to the past I shared with him. But in doing so he found me and forced me to survive. I will never stop thanking him for that.

It’s a strange statement that acknowledges her spurned lover as the motivating agent in her self-discovery. This is not supported by a careful reading of the rest of the book, which paints a vivid picture of a world-renowned artist at the height of her fame, but a vivid self-portrait of an inexperienced young woman from a privileged background. —she was only 21 when she met the Spanish painter, 40 years her senior—yet despite her acuteness of feeling and hardness of spirit, she possessed the power to enter into an inherently unequal relationship without sacrificing her identity. I suspect that Gilot’s survival instinct was as innate as her sense of self. She survived: When she died last June, she was 101 years old.

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Initially, Gilot experimented with abstraction, but later seems to have accepted Picasso’s rejection of abstract painting as simply „a kind of spineless, unstructured interior dream.” In any case, his paintings of the 1960s are primarily representational – and like many French painters of his generation, they show a strong imprint of Picasso’s influence.

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Later he began to switch between imaginative and non-objective modes, although he always attributed autobiographical content to his abstract works. Writing about his 1979-80 composition The Hawthorne, Garden of Another Time, a luminous composition of flat, sharply defined color patterns, he described as „a reminiscence toward my paternal grandmother’s garden in Neuilly”–the affluent Paris suburb where he was born in 1921–„through red stained glass windows.” Billiard room on the second floor. Distilling her memories and feelings into abstract form, she often hides fragments of imagery within her works, blurring the distinction. However, it could be argued that it was in his forays towards abstraction that Gilot achieved his true independence as an artist. There, she was free to use color, as she put it, „to exaggerate, to go beyond, to pursue the extreme limit suggested by the pictorial imagination.”

He achieved double-edged success as a painter and writer: although his career was less academically focused, his exhibitions were legion, and in 2021 two of his paintings were sold through Sotheby’s and Christie’s for $1.3 million each. Her book Life with Picasso It became a hit selling millions of copies worldwide Matisse and Picasso: A Friendship in Art (1990) and Autobiography Interface: Painter and Masker (1983).

In 1970 she married Jonas Salk, the American inventor of the polio vaccine, and began living part of each year in La Jolla, California; He taught every summer between 1976 and 1983 at the University of Southern California. Following Salk’s death in 1995, he moved from California to upstate New York.

Francois Guillot.

Photo by John Van Hasselt/Sigma via Getty Images

Having learned what he could from Picasso, Gilot went his own way with poise, without apparent bitterness. How many of us can do the same? The Guardian A recent obituary for Gilot removed the „blatant sexism” of headlines, which did not fail to mention Picasso (e.g. The New York Times: „Francois Gilot, Artist in Picasso’s Shadow, Dies at 101”). Guardian Writer Katie Hessel asks, „Does her name really need to be mentioned? Aren’t her career, her accomplishments, her name enough to stand out?”

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A retort is that Gilot never believed in cutting off her ex-lover’s name. In addition to writing two books about him, he had the pleasure of exhibiting his own work at the Picasso Museum in Antibes in 1987, and later in 2012 co-curating a show of his and her work at the Gagosian Gallery in New York. So the answer is: yes, you have to refer to Picasso to understand Guillot, something she’s not shy about. Don’t call her his „muse”. The Washington Post, among others. From the beginning, Gilot met Picasso as a fellow practitioner, not just for his vision.

While the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibit, „It’s Pablo-matic: Picasso According to Hannah Gatsby,” claims to present a feminist rebuttal to the artist’s well-known misogyny, it’s notable that the work of neither woman artist who knew him is out of place. Best, Kilot and Dora Mar. The organizers of the show may have discovered that Gilot knew well how to manage his arrogant brutality without neglecting everything in his work that would be most useful to other artists.

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