The death has recently been announced of the French painter Françoise Gilot, at the age of 101.
STILL LIFE WITH FLOWERS AND CHERRIES - Françoise Gilot (1979)
Readers will know of my interest in female artists and, more particularly, those whose careers have been overshadowed by those of their husbands, lovers and male siblings. Françoise Gilot was case in point, being a Muse and lover of Pablo Picasso between 1943 and 1953 and bearing two of his children, Paloma and Claude.
Like me, Gilot was taught first by her mother who encouraged the young Françoise to draw in ink rather than pencil so as not to become dependent on the eraser! Though her time with Picasso led her, temporarily, to align somewhat to cubism, she developed her own style after dissociating from him, producing work of a uniquely dynamic power and bold lyricism.
ON THE WAY - Françoise Gilot (2004)
It seems that Picasso's inflated ego felt threatened by and resentful of the success of his lover and Muse, as he refused to attend Françoise's first solo exhibition in 1952, while they were still together. It is said, furthermore, that he subsequently attempted to block dealers from representing her work.
Françoise Gilot then, is one in a long line of superb female artists who have lived and worked in the shadow of their partners. Witness Elaine de Kooning (wife of Willem de Kooning) and Lee Krasner (wife of Jackson Pollock), both magnificently represented in the exhibition ACTION, GESTURE, PAINT which I attended at the Whitechapel Gallery in London last month. Gwen John was eclipsed by both her brother, Augustus John and by her husband, Auguste Rodin. Sonia Delauney, wife of Robert, fared better; the couple succeeded in a maintaining an artistic symbiosis.
It is to be hoped that Françoise Gilot's passing will bring a renaissance of interest in her remarkable work.
Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2023