Pablo Picasso and Françoise Guillot in C6te d’Azur in 1946Photo: Forum / Michel Sima / Rue des Archives
French artist Françoise Guillot turns 100 on November 26. The long-lived artist is known as the author of watercolors and ceramics, but he gained world fame thanks to his tumultuous relationship with Pablo Picasso. This episode cast a shadow over Françoise Guillot’s personal and artistic biography, although at first nothing indicated that her love affair with Picasso would be very disappointing for both of them.
Picasso is like a thorn
Photographer Czesław Czapliński described how he met Françoise Guillot in New York in 2013 – after Picasso’s death in 1973. He persuaded her to take a series of photos in her studio on Fifth Avenue. – A smiling, fantastic, delicate lady opened up to me. We walked together in a beautiful studio, among the sculptures and paintings on the walls, and I took a picture of him, – said the artist. – I know that you should always keep in touch with the person being photographed. I talked about her because I didn’t know much about her being Picasso’s wife. The more I talked, the sadder he became, ”he added.
The photographer then called his friend and learned only from him that he had chosen the worst possible subject for the conversation. A friend recommended him the book “Life with Picasso” (published in Poland under the title “Live with Picasso”), co-authored by Françoise Guillot and journalist Carlton Lake. It was published in 1964, 11 years after the artist’s separation from the artist, and immediately became a hit with readers. Everyone wanted to see what this love was like. Pablo Picasso’s attempt to block the publication aroused interest.
Pablo Picasso. “Incomparable individuality”
Sad life with Pablo
Picasso and Guillot met in 1943. The artist later married and had a lover and inspiration, Dora Maar, who immortalized him in 1937 in one of his most famous paintings, Portrait of Dora Maar. Fascinated by Françoise, he immediately forgot his old love, and Maar found it very difficult to leave him in favor of a much younger woman. In 1946, Guillot moved permanently to Picasso. That same year, the artist immortalized her in the portrait “La femme-fleur”. In 1947 their son Claude was born, and two years later their daughter Paloma was born.
Their relationship lasted for ten years. At the time, Picasso was still officially the husband of Russian dancer Olga Koklova, who had an older son, Françoise Paul. Koklova tried to divorce Picasso in 1935 when she discovered her relationship with 17-year-old Marie-Terèse Walter, Dora Maar’s predecessor. Picasso successfully avoided divorce for fear of property division. The biggest victim of this conflict was Françoise Guillot, who was repeatedly pushed by Koklova on the streets of Paris.
Pablo Picasso was not an exemplary lover or father. On the one hand, he influenced her artistically and made a significant contribution to her presence in galleries and auction houses, on the other hand, he wanted to manage her and believed that he could do anything with her. But the guillotine was too strong to be controlled. In a short time he became independent in his artistic style, and he did not intend to endure the many betrayals which Pablo could not resist because of his character.
They parted ways with hostility. It was 1953. In 1961, Picasso quickly found solace in the arms of his second wife, Jacqueline Roque. Many researchers believe that the artist used his influence to limit the ability of his ex-girlfriend to display and sell to the public. Later, when Gilot published “Live with Picasso”, the artist cut all ties with him, as well as with Claude and Paloma.
After Picasso’s death in 1973, Gilot made several unsuccessful attempts to attract his children to the artist’s legacy. Jacqueline Roque, however, even prevented them from attending their father’s funeral. Twenty years after their fall, even death had to give way to the hatred that had developed between Gilot and Picasso at the time. Not surprisingly, by demonstrating his knowledge of the artist to the artist, Czeslaw Czapliński caused him great pain, albeit completely unconsciously.
“Old” and “Fragile Françoise”
The popularity of the stories of Françoise Guillot, Pablo Picasso and other women who attracted her attention in those years is evidenced by the fact that this story is reflected in twentieth-century Polish literature. We are talking about the novel “Jumping in the Mountains” by Yeji Anjeyevsky, which was more or less created by Gilot while writing his memoirs with the help of Anjeyevsky Lake.
Famous unknown creator. Jerzy Andrzejewski and a non-existent legend
Andrzejewski did not hide the fact that the protagonist of his book – the artist Antonio Ortiz drew a model of Picasso. Both Ortiz and Picasso agree with their age, the style of painting they use, their international fame, and the extraordinary sexual vitality and unconventional treatment of everyone around them, especially women. The presenter calls him “an old man, a genius goat” with a half-irony, and at the same time the artist still resembles the Olympic god, both in terms of his creative potential and the fact that he has become a mythologist by the audience.
Andrjejewski takes female characters in contact with Ortiz features from several real characters. The protagonist’s name is Françoise Pilier, she is 21 years old when she meets Ortiz, and she is described as “fragile” reminiscent of Picasso’s “Flower Woman.” But the fictional Françoise is not a complete copy of Françoise Guillot. Andrzejewski’s figure receives 22 portraits as a gift from his girlfriend for 22 years. Such a series of portraits was shot by 80-year-old Picasso for Jacqueline Roke.
The plot also mentions Ingrid Halvorsen, a former partner of Ortiz, who left for Norway with his son Olaf after parting ways with the artist. This figure represents both Olga Koklova (who died only in 1955) and Françoise Guillot, who belonged to Picasso’s enemies when he was 80 years old.
Despite losing the battle for Pablo Picasso’s legacy, Françoise Guillot did not give up her struggle to provide for her children (as the artist had promised her in better times). He paid his lawyers from the proceeds of his best-selling book. In addition, he lived and continued to create. From 1955 to 1962 he was the wife of the artist Luc Simon, with whom he has a daughter Aurelia. In 1970, she married Jonas Salk (1914-1995), an American who developed the most effective polio vaccine, and it became possible to eradicate the disease in the United States. The 100-year-old artist continues to paint, splitting his time between Paris, New York and La Jolla, California.
The history of the turbulent relationship between Guilot and Picasso is presented, among others, in James Ivory’s “Picasso. Creative and Destructive” (1996), starring Anthony Hopkins and Natasha Makelhone as Françoise. Picasso was also portrayed by artist Klémence Poésy in Antonio Banderas’ series Geniusz (2018).