Françoise Gilot | Carlton Lake: Life with Picasso

“When I met Pablo, I knew that here was something larger than life,
something to match myself against…”

“People always ask very bizarre questions like, ‘Why did Picasso like you?’ or ‘Why did Jonas Salk like you?’ So I said, ‘Well, usually, lions do not mate with mice!’”

I took an instant liking to this fascinating woman upon hearing her utter this line with a laugh in a documentary that my best friend shared years ago. Right then and there, I was determined to read Life with Picasso one day.

And here it is. The engaging conversationalist comes out in Gilot’s writing. With a clear and strong voice and nary a narcissistic hint, she does not make the book about her, but brings about an unsurpassed portrait of the man that was Pablo Picasso with all the contrasts of light and darkness. She does not play the victim of an eccentric genius, although the book tells us of how she draws the line not only on canvas but also in life.

I doubt if there can be a more intimate and honest account of how Picasso created, his thought process, his private life, and his artistic and political beliefs. As a rippling consequence, Gilot also paints a profound portrait of an extraordinary era that had a surfeit of literary and artistic personages that shaped history.

Stimulating discussions on Modern Art and its dilemmas, on artistic movements, on technique, color, composition; this account is nothing short of enlightening! There is no shortage of lessons on art, on living, on relationships, and on woman. 

Introductions to Françoise Gilot usually begin in 1943 when she met Pablo Picasso with whom she lived for ten years and with whom she had two children; and continues on the same thread that in 1970, she married Jonas Salk who was famous for developing the polio vaccine.

What I find remarkable about this woman is how, despite the monumental names to which her name was attached, she remained her own person as an artist, and as a woman — who, apparently, just refused to mate with mice!

I am sure she was, above all, referring to an intellectual symbiosis.

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