One evening, in Paris, the two happened to be dining at the same restaurant. Picasso was there with his then partner Dora Maar and friends; Gilot with hers. Yet she was captivated. He was In it, Gilot describes a decade-long love affair with Picasso.
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One evening, in Paris, the two happened to be dining at the same restaurant. Picasso was there with his then partner Dora Maar and friends; Gilot with hers. Yet she was captivated. He was In it, Gilot describes a decade-long love affair with Picasso. She, too, was a serious painter, with ambitions to make a name for herself.
Picasso eventually persuaded her to abandon her family and move in with him. At once, she became his student, partner, assistant, and then the mother of their two children, Claude and Paloma.
The book focuses more on Picasso than her own progression as a painter and mother. Teasingly, Matisse suggested to the competitive Picasso that if he were ever to paint Gilot, he would paint her hair green. By the early s, their relationship began to fray. Of them all, Gilot was the only woman to ever walk away from Picasso. So Paloma and I went separately, together, every year, two or three times, more. Decades later, however, the book reads as surprisingly contemporary.
Picasso is portrayed as both brilliant and tyrannical — possessive of Gilot but also careless with her desires and needs. As Picasso told Gilot, there are only two types of women: goddesses and doormats. The book does not diminish his art, but in its own way, it presents a man who could be remarkably self-absorbed and cruel to those closest to him.
The myth of his genius must now contend with a frank depiction of his entitlement, immaturity and ego. Just last year, before his death, Richardson — who would become friends with Gilot — conceded that Gilot was more of an influence on Picasso than the other way around. We discussed her memoir as well as her larger career. The monotypes, which Gilot paints on a flat surface, pressing the image onto paper, are otherworldly and beautiful.
Some of the monotypes reference myths. Others are pure abstractions. Understandably, Gilot seems more engaged discussing her work than her life with Picasso. What follows is an edited and condensed version of our conversation. Thessaly La Force: What was the original reception of the book when it first published in ? It was so long ago. TLF: Do you have any thoughts on it today, looking at it after so many decades?
FG: No, I am living in the present, not in the past. In painting, you are interested by the relationship of colors to one another, or shapes, things like that, not at all a story of any kind. FG: Painting is about painting. Because, so many people think you have to have a story going on. TLF: Are you painting every day?
TLF: How do you fill your days? FG: Today, for me, painting is as natural as breathing. I usually breathe. TLF: How long does it take you to finish a painting? FG: As long as a day, as long as a month or a year. FG: It depends completely. I may finish it tonight or not finish it for six months.
That has nothing to do, as we say, with the price of fish. FG: Yes, so, he did not know me. He had never met me, and then he judged me according to things he had heard.
Then, when he met me, we became very good friends. What can I say? Many people thought that by being against me, they would be pleasing to Picasso. When they saw that it had no reaction from him, then they abandoned that idea.
TLF: Wow. I loved it. FG: On top of it all, I am not saying anything that is disagreeable. Quite the contrary. They had to try to hit it first. TLF: The book is so much more about Picasso than it is you. FG: Well, I am the eye that is looking at a spectacle. TLF: I understand that was a choice you made because you wanted to focus on Picasso. But I would have read more about your life, too. FG: I could write a book like that, but that would be with a different title.
I wrote other things. But, if I write about Picasso, it has to be about Picasso. TLF: Were you afraid of the reaction readers might have as you were working on it? If I would be afraid, then I would not do it. But, I am not afraid. Why should I be afraid? Afraid of what?
Some people are afraid. FG: Afraid of fear itself. FG: But that is stupid. You can say anything you want about me, but I am not stupid. Some of the most amazing moments you described were the conversations you had with Picasso about painting and his peers such as Braque, Matisse and Chagall.
We knew each other, not only through what we did but through what we talked about together, et cetera. TLF: How did your own paintings evolve over that time period?
FG: Well, like anybody, like any painter, the art evolves by the type of experience he or she has. You experience life. Today, we see that it has a little bit of sun. I may not plan it at all. TLF: In so many ways Picasso seems like a brilliant person but also very selfish. Do you think in order to be an artist —. FG: First of all, the reaction that was negative was from the circle around Picasso. They thought my book would be better, so they had to condemn it beforehand.
FG: Of course, because I knew everything much better than they ever would. I knew in advance that I would have to fight for it, because people would not like me. FG: That can be. Sometimes people like you. You have to be true to yourself and true to the truth. Do you think one has to be — in order to be a genius, in order to be a great artist — do you have to behave in the way Picasso did? FG: Well, he was selfish, but more so, 10 times.
Because, he thought he was times better than any other. TLF: Can you be a good artist and not be selfish? FG: No. Because an artist should have a big ego. FG: Because what he has to deliver is his own personality as well as the relationship of his personality to the world at large. He answers about his own questioning of the truth.
Why should it be different to be a woman or a man? We can probably pay attention to different things than a man would. That would allow the truth about certain things to be known better, because a woman has reflected upon it and thought of what was a real solution to that problem. TLF: But, I wonder if men are allowed to be —. FG: Why should we be allowed to be anything? We are not allowed to anything. If they are not able to do that, then they should stay home.
Life After Picasso: Françoise Gilot
Then, just as abruptly, her fierceness subsides. We are half a block from Broadway, but no sense of the contemporary world creeps in. When coffee is served, in fine china and on a trolley wheeled in by a housekeeper in uniform, there is a sense we could be meeting at any point in the last years. The irony is that, for most of her life, Gilot has been waiting for the world to catch up with her. Gilot is used to shocking people. She remembers the first time she did it, when she was five years old and had already started going to the Louvre with her teacher.
Life With Picasso
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