Picasso tried to destroy her - now Françoise Gilot has her own gallery in his museum

Artist Francois Gilot poses with her work at a personal art exhibition in Milan, Dec. 21, 1965.
Artist Francois Gilot poses with her work at a personal art exhibition in Milan, Dec. 21, 1965. Copyright AP Photo, File
Copyright AP Photo, File
By Amber Louise Bryce
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Françoise Gilot walked out on Picasso, so he tried to ruin her life. Now she's finally getting the recognition she deserves with a dedicated gallery space at the Picasso Museum in Paris.


Françoise Gilot was the only woman to ever dump Pablo Picasso, and he promised to destroy her career because of it.

A successful artist in her own right, Gilot's achievements have long been overshadowed by her romantic relationship with Picasso, who used his power and influence within France's art scene to blacklist her following their split.

At long last, the Picasso Museum hopes to right these wrongs with a gallery dedicated to Gilot, who died last year aged 101, as part of its newly renovated permanent Picasso exhibition. 

“She is not being presented as Picasso’s muse or inspiration. There are none of the pictures he did of her or photographs; instead it concentrates on Françoise Gilot as an artist,” a museum spokesperson told The Guardian

Who was Françoise Gilot?

Artist Francoise Gilot being interviewed by Reginald Bosanquet about her memoir in 1965.
Artist Francoise Gilot being interviewed by Reginald Bosanquet about her memoir in 1965.Bob Dear/AP1965

Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1921, Gilot knew by the age of 5 that she wanted to become a painter. She studied the art while also training to be a lawyer, opening her first exhibition in 1943 in Paris.

This same year she met Picasso at a cafe, aged just 21 and him 61. This led to a decade-long tumultuous relationship, during which she became his muse and they had two children, Claude and Paloma.

In her 1964 memoir, 'Vivre avec Picasso (Life with Picasso)', which Picasso filed three unsuccessful lawsuits against, Gilot described the mental and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex-partner. 

“He took the cigarette he was smoking and touched it to my right cheek and held it there,” she wrote. “He must have expected me to pull away, but I was determined not to give him the satisfaction.”

Gilot also called Picasso "very cruel, sadistic, and merciless to others, as well as to himself."

Strong-willed by nature and steady in her convictions, Gilot walked out on Picasso in 1953, recalling that he said: “You imagine people will be interested in you? They won’t ever, really, just for yourself … It will only be a kind of curiosity they will have about a person whose life touched mine so intimately.”

Such was Picasso's petulant rage that he began what Gilot described as a "war" on her, rallying those within his artistic and intellectual circles to outcast her. Worse still, she became shunned by France as a whole following the memoir's publication, forcing her to relocate to the United States in the 1970s. 

It was here that she rebuilt her life and career, continuing to paint works until her death in 2023, one of which sold for $1.3 million (roughly €1.2 million) at a Sotheby's auction in 2021.

More than a muse

Looking to finally give Gilot the recognition she deserves, the Picasso Museum will feature an exhibition room dedicated entirely to her works. 

Spanning the breadth of Gilot's career, it features everything from her early works with the Réalités nouvelles group, an association of Paris-based abstract artists founded in the late 1930s, to her large totemic compositions of the 1980s. 

The museum hopes to highlight the fact Gilot was much more than Picasso's ex-partner; a staunchly independent woman and talented artist who achieved success for herself, especially during her later years living in America. 

Cécile Debray, the president of the Picasso Museum, said in a statement that Gilot was “being given her rightful place as an artist.”

The rest of the exhibition is spread over 22 rooms and brings together nearly 400 different Picasso paintings, sculptures, ceramics, drawings more.

The Françoise Gilot gallery room is now on display atMusée Picasso Parisfor an indefinite period of time.

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