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THE WOMAN IN RED WHO LEFT PICASSO


As painter, writer, and living icon Françoise Gilot turns 100, let's discover what her life and work can teach us about style.


A century old and still wearing red.
Françoise Gilot wearing red.

"I wear red as a kind of protection, an affirmation of character," says Françoise Gilot. "It allows me to show myself the way I want to be seen."


In case you've forgotten your modern art history, Françoise Gilot is a well-known painter who had an intense ten-year relationship with Pablo Picasso. She is also the only woman to have left him. (Picasso was infamous for discarding the women in his life.)


In 1964, Gilot created a sensation with the publication of her memoir, Life With Picasso, a candid account of her relationship with the artist.


Gilot and Picasso – the good years.
Gilot and Picasso – the good years.

Gilot was just 21 in 1943 when she met Picasso, who was then 61 and a living legend. She moved into his Paris studio on Rue des Grands-Augustins in the 6th Arrondissement and would become the mother of their two children, Claude and Paloma.


Picasso's Rue des Grands-Augustins studio at the time Gilot met the artist.
Picasso's Rue des Grands-Augustins studio at the time Gilot met the artist.

Picasso encouraged her to paint and the May–December relationship flourished... for a while. In her book Gilot wrote that Picasso showed her great tenderness but also subjected her to heartbreaking cruelty.


Leaving Picasso was a drawn-out process, with the relationship finally ending in 1953 when she was 32 years old. Gilot would eventually marry an only-in-fiction husband: Dr Jonas Salk, developer of the polio vaccine. The marriage lasted until his death in 1995.


Paloma à la Guitare by Françoise Gilot sold for a million euros at auction.
"aloma à la Guitare" by Françoise Gilot sold for a million euros in 2021.

Famous in her own right, Gilot's paintings are exhibited in more than a dozen prestigious museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Her painting Paloma à la Guitare, a 1965 portrait of Gilot with her daughter, recently sold for a million euros at Sotheby’s in London. In 2010 the French government awarded her the country's highest accolade, Officer of the Légion d'Honneur.


Painter and living icon Françoise Gilot in her studio.
Painter and living icon Françoise Gilot in her studio.

“The sense of style is important,” Gilot says. At one hundred, Gilot still dresses in colour with a vibrant mix of pink, gold, royal blue, and her signature red.