Françoise Gilot interview on Pablo Picasso (1998)

Manufacturing Intellect
30 Jul 201654:16

TLDRIn this 1998 interview, Françoise Gilot reflects on her life as a painter and her influential relationship with Pablo Picasso. Born into an artistic family in Paris, Gilot discusses her early inclination towards art and the profound impact of both her parents on her development as an artist. Despite her father's initial insistence on a more traditional career path, Gilot's determination and talent eventually led her to pursue her passion for painting. The interview delves into her experiences during the German occupation of Paris, her first exhibition, and her meeting with Picasso. Gilot shares insights into the dynamics of their relationship, her personal growth as an artist, and the challenges of navigating her career and identity alongside her association with Picasso. The conversation also touches on her marriages to Luc Simon and Jonas Salk, and how each relationship contributed to her personal and artistic evolution. Gilot's narrative is a testament to her resilience and her unwavering commitment to her craft, highlighting the importance of individuality and self-awareness in the world of art.


  • 🎨 Françoise Gilot's mother was a talented watercolorist and ceramist, influencing her artistic inclination from a young age.
  • 🖌️ Gilot's father, a businessman and literati, encouraged her to pursue a career in law while also allowing her to paint, instilling a strong sense of self-awareness and discipline.
  • 🌟 Despite her family's support for her artistic pursuits, Gilot faced a personal struggle to confirm her talent and commitment to becoming a professional painter.
  • 💡 Gilot's philosophy is that artistic talent is innate and cannot be learned; one must either possess it or focus on other pursuits to achieve greatness.
  • 📚 The impact of World War II and the German occupation of France during Gilot's formative years as an artist influenced her work, leading to symbolic expressions of resistance and resilience.
  • 🖼️ Gilot's first exhibition in 1943, amidst the war, showcased her symbolic paintings, including one featuring a hawk, which later inspired Picasso's paintings with cherry motifs.
  • 🌐 Meeting Picasso in 1943 proved to be a significant turning point in Gilot's life and career, as their relationship and artistic dialogue spanned over a decade.
  • 💥 Gilot's relationship with Picasso was complex, marked by both intellectual stimulation and personal challenges, ultimately leading to her departure from him.
  • 📖 Gilot authored a book about her life with Picasso, 'Life with Picasso', as a form of documentation and personal catharsis, rather than possession or ego.
  • 🌈 Throughout her life, Gilot maintained her independence and strong sense of self, shaping her relationships and artistic evolution on her own terms.

Q & A

  • What was Françoise Gilot's initial career aspiration as a child?

    -Françoise Gilot initially wanted to become a painter from a very young age, inspired by her mother who was a good water colorist and had studied art history.

  • How did Françoise Gilot's parents influence her interest in art?

    -Françoise's mother was a talented water colorist and had studied art history, which greatly influenced her. Her father, although a businessman, was intellectually inclined towards literature and often engaged in discussions with Françoise, encouraging her to pursue her passion for art.

  • What was the impact of World War II on Françoise Gilot's life and artistic career?

    -The war had a profound effect on Gilot, as it did on many people of her generation. It led her to realize the importance of living each moment fully and doing what one truly wants to do. This realization influenced her decision to commit fully to her painting, despite the challenging circumstances of the time.

  • How did Françoise Gilot meet Pablo Picasso?

    -Françoise Gilot met Pablo Picasso in May of 1943 at a restaurant called Catalan, where they were introduced by a mutual acquaintance, the actor Alain Cuny.

  • What was the nature of the relationship between Françoise Gilot and Pablo Picasso?

    -Their relationship was deeply intertwined with their shared passion for painting. They had intense discussions about art and influenced each other's work, but their relationship was also marked by Picasso's dominant personality and Gilot's struggle for independence.

  • How did Françoise Gilot ensure that her artistic identity was not overshadowed by her association with Picasso?

    -Gilot maintained her independence by continuing to develop her own unique style and artistic vision. She was recognized as one of the promising painters of her generation even before she began living with Picasso, and she always sought to express herself authentically in her work.

  • What was the significance of the cherries in Picasso's paintings after meeting Françoise Gilot?

    -The cherries became a recurring symbol in Picasso's paintings, representing a moment of pleasure and connection during their first meeting. Cherries served as a visual metaphor, a reminder of their introduction and the significance of that encounter.

  • How did Françoise Gilot's approach to color and symbolism in her paintings evolve over time?

    -Gilot's approach to color and symbolism became more minimalist over time, influenced by modern artists like Matisse and Georges Braque. She focused on expressing emotions and ideas through a limited palette and symbolic elements, rather than creating literal representations.

  • What were some of the challenges Françoise Gilot faced as a woman artist in the mid-20th century?

    -Gilot faced the challenge of establishing her own identity and recognition in a male-dominated art world. She also navigated complex personal relationships with influential artists like Picasso, which brought both opportunities and pressures that she had to manage to maintain her artistic integrity.

  • How did Françoise Gilot's relationship with her father influence her decision-making in her personal and professional life?

    -Her father played a significant role in shaping her intellectual curiosity and confidence. He encouraged her to be logical and self-aware, which helped her make important decisions, including the choice to leave Picasso and pursue her own artistic path.

  • What was the impact of Jonas Salk on Françoise Gilot's life and work?

    -Jonas Salk provided a supportive and understanding relationship that allowed Gilot to continue her artistic pursuits. His respect for her independence and their shared interest in architecture and other intellectual pursuits strengthened their bond and positively influenced her life and work.



🎨 Artistic Roots and Family Influence

The speaker discusses the artistic influence of their family, particularly their mother who was a watercolorist and ceramist, and their father who, despite being a businessman, had a profound intellectual impact. The speaker's early desire to become a painter is highlighted, as well as the expectations and pressures of following a more traditional career path. The conversation delves into the speaker's journey of self-assurance in their artistic abilities and the eventual embrace of their true calling as a painter.


🌏 War, Life Philosophy, and Artistic Expression

This paragraph explores the speaker's life-changing realizations during the war, where the proximity of death led to a philosophy of living authentically and embracing one's desires. The impact of war on the speaker's work is discussed, including the symbolic and metaphorical elements incorporated into their paintings as a response to the political climate. The narrative also touches on the speaker's interactions with other notable artists, such as Picasso, and the influence of these relationships on their artistic development.


🖌️ Influences and Artistic Evolution

The speaker reflects on the influence of other artists like Picasso and Matisse on their work. They discuss the importance of having French mentors and the desire to distance themselves from the Cubism movement. The speaker's admiration for Matisse's ability to express joy is highlighted, and there's a discussion about the symbolic language of painting. The paragraph also touches on the speaker's personal style and how it was shaped by various influences and their own unique artistic vision.


💡 Matisse, Picasso, and the Dynamics of Artistic Relationships

The speaker shares anecdotes about their interactions with Matisse and Picasso, including a humorous story about Matisse's intention to paint the speaker in an armchair. The complex dynamics between these artistic giants are explored, revealing the collaborative yet competitive nature of their relationships. The speaker's role in maintaining a balance between the two is discussed, as well as their personal experiences modeling for Matisse and the impact of these interactions on their artistic growth.


🌟 Overcoming the Shadow of Picasso

The speaker addresses the impact of their relationship with Picasso on their personal and artistic life. They discuss the evolution of their relationship, the challenges of being in the shadow of a great artist, and the process of establishing their own identity as a painter. The speaker reflects on the importance of having a strong sense of self and the need for independence in their artistic pursuits. The conversation also touches on the societal expectations and the pressure to conform, which the speaker resisted.


💔 The Choice to Leave and the Aftermath

The speaker recounts the difficult decision to leave Picasso and the complex emotions surrounding this choice. They discuss the need for a more equal relationship and the desire for personal freedom. The impact of this decision on their children and the challenges they faced as a single parent are also explored. The speaker reflects on the support they received from their own father and how his encouragement ultimately influenced their decision to leave.


💏 Relationships with Artists and Scientists

The speaker shares insights into their relationships with both artists and scientists, highlighting the differences in mindset and approach to life. They discuss the compatibility they found with Picasso in terms of artistic principles, and the contrasting but ultimately enriching relationship with Jonas Salk, a scientist. The speaker reflects on the importance of mutual respect and understanding in these relationships, and how they contributed to their personal and artistic growth.


🌼 Finding Joy and Purpose in Art

The speaker discusses the joy and purpose they find in their art, emphasizing the importance of continuing to create despite personal losses. They reflect on the evolution of their work, the increased spontaneity, and the greater ease they experience in their painting. The speaker also talks about the satisfaction they derive from their extensive body of work and the pride they feel in the quality and quantity of their creations.


🏆 Life Achievements and Artistic Legacy

The speaker reflects on their life achievements, highlighting their accomplishments in the art world, including over 1500 oil paintings and 4000 works on paper. They express pride in the quality of their work and the impact they have made. The speaker also discusses the influence of their experiences and relationships on their artistic development, emphasizing the importance of staying true to oneself and one's artistic vision throughout life.


🌈 A Life of Art and Relationships

The speaker provides a comprehensive overview of their life, relationships, and artistic journey. They discuss the significant relationships with Picasso and Jonas Salk, and how each relationship contributed uniquely to their personal growth and artistic expression. The speaker also addresses the misconceptions about their association with Picasso and asserts their independent status as an artist. The conversation concludes with the speaker's reflections on their life trajectory and the continuous evolution of their artistic practice.



💡Francoise Gilot

Francoise Gilot is the interviewee in this transcript, a French painter, writer, and former life partner and muse of Pablo Picasso. She is known for her own artistic achievements as well as her influential relationship with Picasso which greatly impacted both their lives and bodies of work.

💡Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso is a renowned Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, and ceramicist who is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. In this context, he is discussed in relation to his relationship with Francoise Gilot and the effect it had on their respective art careers.

💡Artistic Influence

Artistic influence refers to the impact one artist has on another's work, style, or career. In the transcript, Francoise Gilot discusses how her relationship with Picasso influenced her development as a painter, as well as how she maintained her own artistic identity and independence despite his overwhelming presence.


Paris is mentioned as the place where Francoise Gilot grew up and where she held her first exhibition. It is historically known as the art capital of the world and serves as a backdrop for the early part of Gilot's artistic journey and her encounters with influential artists and movements.

💡World War II

World War II is referred to in the context of its impact on Gilot's life and art, as well as the broader art world. The war years and the German occupation of France during this period influenced the themes and symbolism in Gilot's paintings, as well as her personal experiences and relationships.

💡Creative Independence

Creative independence is the ability of an artist to develop and express their own unique style and vision without being overly influenced or controlled by others. In the interview, Gilot emphasizes the importance of maintaining her own creative independence, even when in a relationship with a figure as dominant as Picasso.


Henri Matisse is another famous artist mentioned in the transcript. Gilot discusses her admiration for Matisse's work, particularly his ability to express joy in his paintings, which she sees as an equally challenging feat as expressing drama. Matisse represents one of the mentors in modern art that Gilot looked up to, alongside Picasso.


Cubism is an early 20th-century art movement that is mentioned in the context of Picasso's and Matisse's collaborative friendship. It is characterized by the fragmentation and reinterpretation of objects in geometric forms, and Gilot touches upon the impact and dynamics of this movement on her own artistic development.

💡Color and Emotion

Color and emotion are central themes in the discussion of Gilot's painting philosophy. She explains her use of color to convey specific moods and feelings, such as using cooler blues for melancholy and warmer colors for cheer and strength. This reflects her belief in the symbolic and emotional power of color in art.

💡Personal Relationships

Personal relationships play a significant role in the narrative of the interview, particularly in how they shape an artist's life and work. Gilot discusses her relationships with her parents, Picasso, and Jonas Salk, and how each of these relationships influenced her as a person and as an artist.

💡Artistic Evolution

Artistic evolution refers to the development and change in an artist's style, technique, or thematic focus over time. In the transcript, Gilot reflects on her own artistic evolution, noting that her later works display a greater ease and spontaneity that comes with age and experience.


Francoise Gilot's early life in Paris and her family's influence on her becoming a painter.

Gilot's mother was a talented watercolorist and studied art history, instilling a love for the arts in the family.

Despite her father's desire for her to attend law school, Gilot's passion for painting was undeniable.

Gilot's philosophy on art is that one must be born with artistic talent, and if not, one should pursue other interests.

The impact of World War II on Gilot's life and her decision to fully commit to being a painter.

Gilot's first exhibition took place in 1943, during the German occupation of Paris, with works symbolically expressing resistance.

The story of Gilot's chance encounter with Pablo Picasso at a restaurant, leading to their meeting and subsequent relationship.

Gilot's reflections on the influence of Picasso and other artists like Matisse on her own artistic development.

Gilot's perspective on the importance of being true to oneself and living each moment fully, especially during times of war.

The evolution of Gilot's art during her relationship with Picasso, moving towards more minimalist and expressionistic styles.

Gilot's decision to leave Picasso and her reflections on their complex and influential relationship.

Gilot's successful continuation of her painting career after leaving Picasso, and her recognition as a significant artist in her own right.

The unique dynamic between Gilot and Picasso, where both were strong-minded and passionate individuals in their art and relationship.

Gilot's insights on the role of women in the art world and her experiences with other notable artists like Matisse and Braque.

Gilot's reflections on her life, her art, and the relationships that shaped her journey as an artist.