Persons [ ] Life with Picasso | Françoise Gilot, 1944-53

Life with Picasso | Françoise Gilot, 1944-53

Françoise Gilot

“Since I realized that he (Picasso) lived in a self-enclosed world and that his solitude was therefore total, I wanted to explore my own solitude.”

“I paint the way some people write their autobiography. The paintings, finished or not, are the pages of my journal, and as such they are valid. The future will choose the pages it prefers. It’s not up to me to make the choice. I have the impression that the time is speading on past me more and more rapidly. I’m like a river that rolls on, dragging with it the trees that grow too close to its banks or dead calves one might have thrown into it or any kind of microbes that develop in it. I carry all that along with me and go on. It’s the movement of painting that interests me, the dramatic movement from one effort to the next, even if those efforts are perhaps not pushed to their ultimate end. In some of my paintings I can say with certainty that the effort has been brought to its full weight and its conclusion, because there I have been able to stop the flow of time around me. I have less and less time, and yet I have more and more to say, and what I have to say is,increasingly, something about what goes on in the movement of my thought. I’ve reached the moment, you see, when the movement of my thought interests me more than the thought itself.”

Francoise Gilot

Françoise Gilot

“What interests me is to set up what you might call the rapport de grand écart – the most unexpected relationship possible between the things I want to speak about, because there is a certain difficulty in establishing relationships in just that way, and in that difficulty there is an interest, and in that interest there is a certain tension and for me that tension is a lot more important than the stable equilibrium of harmony, which doesn’t interest me at all. Reality must be torn apart in every sense of the word. What people forget is that everything is unique. Nature never produces the same thing twice. Hence my stress on seeking the rapport de grand écart: a small head on a large body; a large head on a small body. I want to draw the mind in the direction it’s not used to and wake it up. I want to help the viewer discover something he wouldn’t have discovered without me. That’s why I stress the dissimilarity, for example, between the left eye and the right eye. A painter shouldn’t make them so similar. They’re just not that way. So my purpose is to set things in movement, to provoke this movement by contradictory tensions, opposing forces, and in that tension or opposition, to find the moment which seems the most interesting to me.”

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Françoise Gilot, Study for Self-Portrait In Orange With Blue Necklace 1944-45                Françoise Gilot, Paloma à la Lampe, 1954

“You see, for me a painting is a dramatic action in the course of which the reality finds itself split apart. For me, that dramatic action takes precedence over all other considerations. The pure plastic act is only secondary as far as I’m concerned. What counts is the drama of that plastic art, the moment at which the universe comes out of itself and meets its own destruction.”

“Everybody has the same energy potential. The average person wastes his in a dozen little ways. I bring mine to bear on one thing only; my paintings, and everything is sacrificed to it – you and everyone else, myself included.”

“The heart of the problem, I soon came to understand, was that with Pablo there must always be a victor and a vanquished. I could not be satisfied with being a victor, nor, I think, could anyone who is emotionally mature. There was nothing gained by being vanquished either, because with Pablo, the moment you were vanquished he lost all interest. Since I loved him, I couldn’t afford to be vanquished. What does one do in a dilemma like that?”

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Pablo Picasso and  Françoise Gilot, 1946


Pablo Picasso, Francoise Gilot with Paloma and Claude, 1951

“Pablo’s many stories and reminiscences about Olga and Marie-Thérese and Dora Maar, as well as their continuing presence just offstage in our own life together, gradually made me realize that he had a kind of Bluebeard complex that made him want to cut off the heads of all women he had collected in his private museum. But he didn’t cut the heads entirely off. He preferred to have life go on and to have all those women who had shared his life at one moment or another still letting out little peeps and cries of joy or pain and making a few gestures like disjointed dolls, just to prove there was some life left in them, that it hung by a thread, and that he held the other end of the thread. From time to time they would provide a humorous or dramatic or sometimes tragic side to things, and that was all grist to his mill.”

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Françoise Gilot, Beach (Golfe Juan), 1959            The Lighthouse at Beachy Head, 1960           Françoise Gilot, French Window in Blue, 1939

“You have to admit that most women who do something with their lives have been disliked by almost everyone.”

“And you, you’re an angel,’ he said, scornfully, ‘but an angel from a hot place. Since I’m the devil, that makes you one of my subjects. I think I’ll brand you.”

“It’s ludicrous to even talk about (Marquis) de Sade, let alone indulge in all that, when people are being tortured and suffering for real, not for sexual games. I have no interest either in being a victim or in turning others into victims.”

“My grandmother’s death had given me a heightened sense of individual solitude, of each one of us walking towards his own death, with no one able to help us or hold us back.”

Lee Miller, Claude Picasso and Françoise Gilot, 1949                 Françoise Gilot in her studio with Paloma and Claude, Paris, 1956

“Don’t imagine you could ever take my place.’ I told her I had never wanted to; I only wanted to occupy the one that was empty.”

“One day when I went to see him (Picasso), we were looking at the dust dancing in a ray of sunlight that slanted in through one of the high windows. He said to me, ‘Nobody has any real importance to me. As far as I’m concerned, other people are like those little grains of dust floating in the sunlight. It takes only a push of the broom and out they go.’I told him I had often noticed in his dealings with others that he considered the rest of the world only little grains of dust. But I said, as it happened, I was a little grain of dust gifted with autonomous movement and who didn’t therefore need a broom. I could go out by myself.”

Life with Picasso / Françoise Gilot, 1944 -53


Françoise Gilot, Self Portrait (Figure in the Wind), 1944

Francoise Gilot was a young painter in Paris when she first met Picasso – he was sixty-two and she was twenty-one. During the following ten years they were lovers, worked closely together and she became mother to two of his children, Claude and Paloma. Picasso called her “The Woman Who Says No” (as she was the only woman who dared to defy him).

Picasso was first introduced to Gilot in spring of 1943, when he begged an introduction from an actor friend, who was sitting nearby at a restaurant with Gilot and another painter. I’ve seen it told several places that Picasso approached their table carrying a bowl of cherries, but Gilot mentions that he also left with them.

Pablo Picasso, Françoise Gilot, collages
Gjon Mili, Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso in Villauris, France, 1949

“If the wings of the butterfly are to keep their sheen, you mustn’t touch them. We mustn’t abuse something which is to bring light into both our lives. Everything else in my life only weighs me down and shuts out the light. This thing with you seems like a window that is opening up. I want it to remain open.”

Françoise Gilot, Life with Picasso

Françoise Gilot, L’atelier
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Francoise Gilot (1921-1986), Paula

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Gjon Mili, Françoise Gilot, Picasso’s lover for 10 years, with their young son, Claude, Vallauris, France, 1949
Robert Capa, Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot. In the background the painter’s nephew Javier Vilato. France, 1948

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