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Françoise Gilot

b. 1921, Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

d. 2023, New York, United States


Françoise Gilot was a remarkable French artist whose expansive oeuvre bridged twentieth-century avant-garde and burgeoning contemporary aesthetics. Born into a wealthy family outside of Paris, Gilot engaged with art from an early age, receiving private lessons. In 1938, Gilot completed her baccalaureate-philosophy at the University of Paris and attended the Sorbonne and the British Institute in Paris where she completed a degree in English literature. In 1940, when the threats of World War II intensified, her father enrolled her in law school in Rennes. Despite her parents’ opposition, Gilot continued painting and began studying with Endre Rozsda in 1941. In 1943, she abandoned her law degree to pursue a career in the arts, taking classes at Académie Julian.


Gilot's artistic journey was indelibly marked by her relationship with Picasso, which began shortly after the artist invited her to his studio in 1943. The couple later had two children, Claude ‘1947’ and Paloma ‘1949’. Around 1946, Gilot deserted oil paintings in favor of graphite, and occasionally gouache, on paper, focusing on still lifes and abstract compositions. Gilot began accompanying Picasso to Fernand Mourlot’s Atelier in 1950 where she became the first woman to make lithographs in the acclaimed studio. In 1953, Gilot left Picasso and, in the following year, reconnected with surrealist painter Luc Simon who encouraged her more poetic nature. In 1955, the two married and, in the following year, she gave birth to her third child Aurelia. After seven years, Gilot and Simon divorced amicably in 1962. In November of 1964, she published Life with Picasso despite the eponymous artist’s disapproval.


Invited by June Wayne, founding director of the renowned Tamarind Lithography Workshop, to create lithographs, Gilot visited California in 1969. There, she met her future husband, polio vaccine pioneer Dr. Jonas Salk. Gilot became interested in creating monotypes after seeing an exhibition in 1980 at the Met titled The Painterly Print. In 1985, Gilot formed a longstanding partnership with Judith Solodkin, the first female master printer at Tamarind Workshop and director of Solo Impressions in New York. In 1991, she appointed Mel Yoakum, Ph.D. as the curator of her archive. After over two decades of figurative work, Gilot began her return to abstraction, incorporating themes of irony and celestial proceedings.





In June 1994, Dr. Jonas Salk died from sudden heart failure. Gilot closed her studio in La Jolla, consolidating her paintings in New York City. She was appointed Officier de la Legion d’honneur in 2010, the highest honor in the arts awarded by the French government and remained a vital presence in the art world until her death at the age of 101 in 2023. Throughout her lifetime, Gilot had major exhibitions with Musée Picasso (1987) and The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (1992). Her work can be found in public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Musée Picasso, Antibes; Tel Aviv Museum of Art; and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.