Françoise Gilot's Life: Artist, Author, Muse of Picasso

When Pablo Picasso passed away without a will, he left behind more than 45,000 works which have become the center of personal and financial struggle between his heirs. The artist was survived by 4 children from 3 different women. They are as follows: Paulo (with Olga Khokhlova), Maya (with Marie-Thérèse Walter), and Claude and Paloma (with Francoise Gilot). Paulo, the artist’s only legitimate son, passed away in 1975. His children Marina and Bernard Picasso now join Claude, Paloma and Maya as official heirs to the estate.


The heirs at the center of the estate negotiations are Claude and Paloma. The relationship between them with their father has been challenging. Their mother, Francoise Gilot, left Picasso after a ten year affair, and is the only lover to ever leave the artist. In 1964, she published a book titled Life with Picasso which infuriated Picasso and led him to bar Paloma and Claude from his home. Despite this severed relationship, the two children were eventually able to gain shares of the estate through a 1972 law which protected illegitimate offspring.

Picasso with Claude and Paloma
Picasso with Claude and Paloma

Since then, Claude Picasso has been named legal administrator of Picasso’s estate and is now the head of the Picasso Administration, an organization that manages the licensing of Picasso’s name. The administration oversees a huge variety of legal concerns. Each year, an annual report is largely dedicated to court cases that have been settled or are pending.  Given the wide variety of objects (automobiles, pens, lingerie) which have acquired Picasso’s name, it is not surprising that the administration is constantly enmeshed in legal battles. Despite their persistence in protecting the artist’s name, there still remain hundreds of illegal brands titled “Picasso” around the world. In regards to Picasso’s artworks, Claude remains the official authenticator and receives on average almost 1000 requests for authentication annually. The verification process can be complicated, given the scholarship required and the necessity for Claude to view the works in person.

We can only imagine the Picasso Administration will strengthen its authority as the market for Picasso works continues to soar. The range of Picasso collectors has grown exponentially to include regions such as Asia and the Middle East. Just last year, there were 34 Picasso exhibitions in total around the globe. One recent exhibition which generated great excitement was MOMA’s Picasso Sculpture. The exhibition was well received for revealing the lesser known aspects of the artist’s expansive oeuvre. As such, Picasso’s name also retains its value in the commercial art market.  In May, 2015 Picasso’s 1955 painting Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”) was sold by Christie’s for the astounding price of $179 million. This marked the record as the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

sculptures picasso.
Photo from Picasso Sculpture Exhibition
Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”), 1955
Les Femmes d’Alger (Version “O”), 1955

Evidenced by the popular museum exhibitions and the high auction prices, the wealth and renown of Picasso and his family will continue to grow. Given their status within the art world, the family has been incredibly philanthropic. For instance, the majority of the heirs have donated Picasso’s works to museums. Several works have also been auctioned in order to support various charities. Recently, it was announced that Picasso’s studio in Paris would be transformed into a research and educational center of the arts. This project is headed by the Maya Picasso Foundation for Arts Education and you may find more information here:

Without a doubt, the heirs place their father’s legacy and career above personal conflicts. Their contributions will surely provide for the next generation of artists and scholars who will continue to expand our knowledge of the modern master.

More on Pablo Picasso:

Pablo Picasso and his Women, Picasso’s artistic style thru the years

Françoise Gilot's Life: Artist, Author, Muse of Picasso

By on 10 May 2018

Françoise Gilot was born in 1921 in Paris, France to Emile Gilot and Madeleine Renoult-Gilot. Her father was an agronomist and her mother was an artist specializing in watercolors and ceramics. Her father was overbearing and had very different ideas for Françoise’s life than she had for herself. Determined at the age of 5 to be an artist,  her mother Madeleine began tutoring her in watercolors.

Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso in Vallauris France in one of their studios

Françoise and Picasso

She achieved a BA in Philosophy from Sorbonne, and completed an English degree at Cambridge. In 1939, near the beginning of the war, Gilot was sent by her father to law school in Rennes, where she was pushed to pursue international law. Much of Gilot’s early work was destroyed in World War II. In 1940, during a protest, Gilot was one of many placed on a list of hostages that were not allowed to leave the city of Paris and had to report to local authorities every morning. The Germans were very suspicious of French law students, so Gilot leaves during her second year and becomes a secretary for her father’s business as well as a fashion designer. In 1941 her father paid for Gilot to be taken off the list, but she could not yet safely resume her studies.

Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso's children Claude Picasso and Paloma Picasso

Françoise with children Paloma and Claude

The first meeting between Gilot and Pablo Picasso occurred in 1943, when they were dining next to one another in a restaurant. He approached her table with a bowl of cherries and started talking to Gilot and friend Genevieve. At the time, Gilot and Genevieve were putting on a show, which they invited Picasso to see. He did, much to the delight of Gilot. Around this time, Gilot made the final decision to fully embrace her artistic career, which caused her to become estranged from her father. During the next three years Picasso and Gilot saw much of each other as she continued to work on her art and travel.

In 1946, Picasso convinced a reluctant Gilot to move in with him, and they began their romance. After some convincing from Picasso, Gilot gave birth to their first child, Claude, in 1947. The new family moved to Vallauris in 1948, following the start of Picasso’s interest in ceramics. Their second child, Paloma, was born in 1949. Gilot and Picasso would split their time between Vallauris and Paris, as they worked on their art and raised their children. One of the reasons that Picasso was attracted to Gilot was because she was his intellectual equal. She became the only woman to leave Picasso in 1953, after enduring his temper for 10 years.

Françoise and Luc Simon

Françoise and Luc Simon

In 1954, Gilot met Luc Simon, an artist, and the two married in 1955. Together they had a daughter, Aurelia, and though they had a happy marriage, eventually they split in 1961, remaining on good terms. During this time, Gilot faced some backlash from ending her relationship with Picasso. An art dealer who used to exhibit her work terminated her contract due to pressure from Picasso, his other client. In 1957 Gilot obtained a new contract with Galerie Coard and continued to create and exhibit her work in Paris. Throughout the mid-1960’s her reach grows, and she began to exhibit internationally.

Gilot published Life with Picasso in 1964, which gave an incredible, and overall not glowing, account of her life with the artist. Picasso was outraged and sued three times in an attempt to stop further publishing of the book. He failed in each and eventually admitted defeat to Gilot in the last conversation they ever had.

In 1970 Gilot married Jonas Salk, the creator of the polio vaccine. They had a happy marriage that ended with his abrupt death in 1995. Since then, and during this time, Gilot continues to create her art and exhibit all over the United States and the world. She spent much of her time between La Jolla, where Salk lived, and New York and Paris where she maintained studios. Her vast oeuvre speaks for itself and the incredible life that Gilot has built with her own two hands.

Famed artist Françoise Gilot one of Pablo Picasso's Muses and mother of his 2 children Claude Picasso and Paloma PicassoReference:

  • The F. Gilot Archives. Accessed October 12, 2016.
  • Kazanjian, Dodie. “Life After Picasso: Françoise Gilot,” Vogue, April 27th, 2012. Accessed October 12, 2016.
  • Lacher, Irene. “A Place of Her Own: Culture: Francoise Gilot, Picasso’s former love and Jonas Salk’s wife, wants to be known not as the companion of great men, but as their equal,” LA Times, March 6th, 1991. Accessed October 12, 2016.

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