Françoise Gilot was only 21 years old when she began her 10 year relationship with Picasso, then 61.
Was it Dumas who said that if a woman were to know at 20 what she knows at 40, she would live her life differently? Luckily for her, Françoise didn’t have to wait 10 more years to realize that, if she didn’t leave Picasso, he would devour her. But she did wait those 10 years to write about their relationship in “Life with Picasso” (1964).
Picasso may have been artistically rich but, emotionally, he was poverty stricken. Being in a relationship with him was risky. Wife Olga Khokhlova and lover Dora Maar were left psychology destroyed whereas lover Marie-Thérèse Walter and wife Jacqueline Roque committed suicide. Only Françoise escaped tragedy. Then again, what can you expect from a man who says “For me, there are only two kinds of women—goddesses and doormats.” And, if Picasso found a woman who was a goddess, he did his best to turn her into a doormat.
Picasso’s ego had him criticize other artists non-stop (for example, he called Braque “Madame Picasso”). He highly criticized Pierre Bonnard saying that he wasn’t a modern painter because Bonnard obeyed nature instead of trying to transcend it and that his paintings were a potpourri of indecision. Painting, said Picasso, was a matter of taking power. I, personally, adore Bonnard’s paintings. Maybe the real problem was that Bonnard lived with his wife (and model) from 1893 until her death in 1942. To commit oneself emotionally is a power Picasso didn’t have.
Despite his success as a seducer, Picasso for me is not sexy—how can there be anything sexy about a man who likes to blow a bugle but doesn’t like to dance.
As for Françoise, she is destined to have Picasso’s eternal shadow on her life. Like Marianne Faithful who will always be known for her relationship with Mick Jagger, Françoise will be known primarily for her relationship with Picasso. Of course she protests this saying that she should be considered his equal as “lions mate with lions. They don’t mate with mice.”
To read Françoise’s book free online see: “Life with Picasso”