Françoise Gilot

Françoise Gilot (French/American, 1921-2023) holds an important place in the history of modern and contemporary art. Her work challenges the boundaries between figuration and abstraction and entices the imagination of the viewer. Born in France, she studied at the Sorbonne and at Cambridge before showing her first exhibition of paintings in Paris in 1943.

It was during that same year, when Gilot met Pablo Picasso. She was 21 at the time, and he was 40 years her senior. The couple began a decade-long relationship. In this period, Gilot became both a participant in and a witness to one of the last great periods of the modern art movement in Europe. Their circle included poets, philosophers, writers and many legends of the art world, including Braque, Chagall, Cocteau and Matisse. This artistic union was also shared with their two children, Claude and Paloma, whose antics and acrobatic postures were often captured in Gilot’s drawings and paintings.

The couple split in 1953, and Gilot married Luc Simon in 1955, with whom she had a daughter, Aurelia. They divorced in 1962, and in 1969 Gilot remarried to American virologist and polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk (1914-1995).

Françoise Gilot worked as a painter for more than 70 years, wresting visual statements from form and color. Through her explorations and transitions as an artist, Gilot demonstrated how the vitality of tradition can be maintained while moving forward into uncharted territories, securing her work and place within the canon of art history.

Today, the Berman Museum is an international center for the study of Gilot’s work. In addition to her archives, the museum houses over 270 works of art by Gilot, including the most comprehensive collection of lithographs and etchings in the world with the exception of the artist’s own holdings. The Berman has mounted several exhibitions of Gilot’s work and published the catalog raisonné of her complete oeuvre of etchings and lithographs in 1995.