- By Paul Glynn
- entertainment reporter
Francoise Gilot, who emerged from the shadow of her lover Pablo Picasso to become an artist in her own right, has died at the age of 101.
An accomplished painter, Gilot also wrote a 1964 best-selling memoir detailing her turbulent relationship with the Spanish modern art giant.
She describes the “hell” of being Picasso’s mistress and art muse.
French culture minister Rima Abdul Malak called Gilot “one of the most prominent artists of her generation”.
“Her disappearance has plunged the art world into infinite sadness because her personality is so bright and inspiring,” Malak said.
Huffington Post founder and Picasso biographer Arianna Huffington thanks Gilot for “the insights, love and wisdom you have brought into my life”.
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Born near Paris to a wealthy family of engineers and merchants in 1921, Gilot established his first studio in his grandmother’s apartment.
She studied English, philosophy and law at the insistence of her father, who did not want her to become an artist. But privately, she continues to paint.
While living in occupied Paris during the Second World War, she was briefly arrested for participating in anti-Nazi demonstrations under the Arc de Triomphe.
At the age of 21, she met Picasso, 40 years her senior, at a restaurant and the two began a personal and professional relationship.
After the best time of a decade together, giving them two children, she left him.
“Pablo is the greatest love of my life, but you have to take steps to protect yourself,” Gilot says in Janet Hawley’s 2021 book Artists in Conversation. “I did. I left before I was destroyed.”
The Spaniards were unsuccessful in their attempt to stop 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.
Although Picasso is said to have pressured galleries not to display her works, Gilot continued to display them and they are now in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Art. Modern in New York, as well as Center Pompidou in Paris.
A 1965 portrait of her daughter, Paloma à la Guitare, sold for $1.3 million (£1 million) at auction in 2021.
She eventually moved to the US, married twice and had one more child, and became dean of the fine arts department at the University of Southern California.
A passionate travel artist, in 2018 Gilot – then 96 years old – published a book of sketches made during trips to India, Senegal and Venice.