Françoise Gilot

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Biography of Françoise Gilot ( 1921-2023 )

Françoise Gilot was a French painter, illustrator and writer who worked in the aftermath of the Second World War. She was born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1921 to an agronomist father and a watercolourist mother. Her cultured family background made her aware of her family's two main interests: law and art. So it was only natural that she should begin studying law in 1939 at the age of 18, on the eve of the Second World War. It was a war that hit her hard, leading her to reconsider the meaning of her life: "In a way, I told myself that I didn't know how long we were going to be alive, so I was going to do what I wanted."

Driven to follow her vocation, she entered the Ecole des Beaux-arts, where she studied under Jean Souverbie, and the Académie de la Section d'Or. She began to produce and exhibit her work for the first time in 1943. It was in this same year that she met Pablo Picasso, the man who would change her life. He was 61 and she was 21, he was at the height of his fame and she was just beginning her artistic career. She became his muse and mistress, and he his mentor and companion for 10 years.

With her cubist style, imbued with the artistic influence of Picasso, she is more often perceived as "the lover of" than as an artist in her own right. She was nonetheless a prolific artist, producing some 6,000 paintings and works on paper. She differs stylistically from the Spanish painter in the more natural forms of her works, but also in the almost exclusive use of paper as a medium. It's a light, manageable medium that allows her to use a variety of techniques, such as monotypes and the cutting and superimposition of materials.

She acquired great renown, giving her the opportunity to exhibit in France, at the Hune Gallery in Paris in 1950, and at The Mayor Gallery in London. Invited to numerous Salons, such as the Salon de Mai, the Salon des Tuileries and the David Findlay Gallery in New York, her work gave her international recognition and artistic independence in the eyes of the world. She left Pablo Picasso for good in 1953, freeing herself for good from the status of companion that had so defined and confined her in the past.

In a perpetual quest for technical research, she never ceased to produce and renew her art, offering new works with saturated colours and structured compositions, and experimenting with processes such as aquatint. An insatiable artist, she continued to paint until her final death in June 2023.

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