Early Years - 1940s - 1950s - 1960s - 1970s - 1980s - 1990s - 2000s

1940 - 1949

Endre Rozsda, circa 1940

Emile Gilot, mobilized as a captain in the reserves, makes plans to evacuate their more valuable household belongings. The transport he arranges is delayed and the truck, containing the Gilot family heirlooms and most of Françoise’s early drawings and watercolors, is bombed and the contents are lost to the marauding German soldiers.

In October, Gilot begins her second year of law studies, this time at the University of Paris. In her free time, she begins to study art with Monsieur Gerber, a retired artist living in Paris. Gerber is impressed with Gilot’s aptitude in etching and her skillful grasp of the often-capricious technique of aquatint. However, Gilot expresses little enthusiasm to explore printmaking and finds Gerber’s teachings too traditional, restrictive and focused on detail. Gilot soon discontinues her studies with Gerber and within six months she destroys or paints over all the canvases she created while under his tutelage.

November 11: just prior to her 19th birthday, Gilot joins in a spontaneous rally with other students gathered at the Arc De Triomphe to place flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in commemoration of the armistice of 1918 and other past French victories. Obviously in defiance of the German soldiers now occupying Paris, a scuffle breaks out between the French Police and the students. Many are arrested and, although not incarcerated, Gilot’s involvement is reported to the German Police. Within days, she is notified by letter that she is now a hostage and under city arrest. Her name is added to a list kept by the Abwehr of young French hostages, which will be arrested and imprisoned as retribution for any German soldiers killed by the French during the Occupation. Gilot cannot leave Paris and, as a hostage, must report each morning to the Komandantur at the local Neuilly police station.

By December, Gilot abandons her law studies at The University of Paris – the German army was actively suspicious of the young law students in Paris - and “officially” becomes a secretary in her father’s office. She also decides to become a fashion designer, a career considered politically benign by the occupying German police. She designs some clothes for herself at Lelong.


Throughout the particularly freezing month of January, Gilot continues to report daily to the local authorities. By February, Gilot’s father negotiates to pay a large sum of money to certain authorities and her name is dropped from the hostage list, yet it is no longer prudent at this time for her to openly pursue her University studies.

For additional income, Gilot designs a line of ceramic buttons for the high fashion accessories, Line Vautrin. Gilot also establishes a studio on the third floor of her parent’s home in Neuilly.

In the early spring, at the opening of the Salon des Tuileries, which she attends as a fashion designer, Gilot again meets Endre Rozsda, the Hungarian painter her relatives in Brittany had introduced her to 1939. He invites Gilot to his studio and when she visits him later that spring, he begins a series of portrait drawings. They engage in extensive dialogues about color and art theory as she models for him. When they argue, Rozsda uses reproductions of Picasso’s paintings to illustrate his point of view. They begin to share a very intimate – albeit platonic – friendship.


In February, Gilot travels by train to visit Genevieve in Fontes, the south of France being a free zone until the end of the year. The two young women set up a temporary attic studio; however, Genevieve, now and then a student of the artist, Aristide Maillol, is less focused on her art, choosing to spend most of her time sitting for Gilot, who works in earnest, completing a significant number of portraits and landscape drawings together with a few oils.

Françoise Gilot, 1942 (Photo: Harcourt)
Still working under the mentorship of Endre Rozsda, Gilot and Rozsda decide to enroll at the Academie Ranson, a well-established art school on the Left Bank where Bonnard and Vuillard had once taught. Rozsda liked to work there since the school had some heat and, although there is no formal instruction, it provides Gilot the opportunity to draw from the nude. She meets Vilma, formally a model for Henri Matisse, and completes several striking oil-on-paper portraits of her.

In July, Gilot takes a holiday in St. Tropez and stops for a month in the Languedoc to visit with Genevieve in Fontes. Gilot paints a few small canvases during her stay -- all of which have since been lost -- before returning to Paris.

Bowing to the demands of her father, Gilot repeats her second year of law school, studying at home, but with considerably less conviction. Although she passes her written exams, she fails to pass her orals. On November 26, Gilot’s parents celebrate her 21st birthday with a large family party at their home in Neuilly.

France is now entirely occupied by German and Italian troops.


In early March, Endre Rozsda, a Hungarian Jew, leaves occupied Paris for the safety of his native Budapest traveling via Berlin and Vienna. Gilot, fearing for his life and anxious also that her confidence as an artist will be lost with the departure of her mentor and dear friend, accompanies Rozsda to the train station. As the train pulls away she runs along the track, crying, “But what am I to do?“ Rozsda replies jokingly, “Don’t worry about that. In three months time you may know Picasso.” It will take over three years of inquiry before Gilot receives word that Rozsda arrived safely in Budapest.

In April, Genevieve arrives in Paris to prepare for a joint exhibition she and Françoise will have in May at a small gallery owned by a designer of fashions for young girls and children. Discovering that her friend is quite smitten with the famous actor, Alain Cuny, Gilot takes Genevieve to meet the actor back stage after one of his theatre performances.

May 8: Vernissage for Françoise and Genevieve’s first exhibition at the gallery of Madeleine Decre on rue Boissy d’Anglas, near the Place de la Concorde. The exhibition continues until May 24.

May 12: The actor, Alain Cuny, invites Genevieve to dinner at Le Catalan, a Left Bank restaurant frequented by artists and writers. Being rather shy and nervous, Genevieve insists that Françoise join them. Gilot sees Pablo Picasso for the first time, sitting at the next table with a group of friends: the collector, Marie-Laure, Vicomtesse de Noailles, and Dora Maar, the Yugoslav photographer and painter who has been Picasso’s companion since 1936. Gilot is aware that Picasso is watching their table. Before long, he approaches, bearing a bowl of cherries, entreating his friend, Alain Cuny, to introduce him to his two dinner companions. Cuny introduces Genevieve as the beautiful one and Françoise as the intelligent one. Picasso laughs at discovering the two young women are painters. Gilot offers Picasso an invitation to visit their joint exhibition at Madame Decre’s gallery. Picasso invites the two women to visit his studio to view some of his paintings.

A few days later, Françoise drops in at the gallery of Madame Decre and is surprised to discover that Picasso has come to see their exhibition earlier that day. He leaves a note, again inviting the two young artists to come for a visit at his studio.

May 17: Genevieve and Françoise visit Picasso’s studio at 7 rue des Grands-Augustins for the first time. Picasso invites them to return as often as they wish. Following a second visit together to Picasso’s studio, Genevieve returns to her home in Fontes. Gilot begins to make visits to the studio alone.

During the summer, Gilot travels to Fontes to visit Genevieve. They embark on a capricious, two-week bicycle trip, covering nearly 150 miles to Arles and Les Baux. Gilot uses this time to firm her resolve to become an artist, even if it means being at serious odds with her parents. Along the way, she sends letters to her father, bravely announcing that she is finished with her law school studies and is now determined to become a painter. This is her final decision. Furious, Emile Gilot forbids Françoise from becoming a professional artist and father and daughter argue violently. Françoise escapes from the house and moves in with her maternal grandmother, Anne Renoult, her most enduring source of emotional support. Emile Gilot severs all support and, although she is living nearby, Françoise is completely estranged from the other members of the Gilot family.

In October, Françoise begins giving riding lessons in the Bois de Boulogne to support herself.

By the end of October, Gilot decides to enroll at the renowned Academie Julian to study with the respected French artist, Jean Souverbie. There she meets Pauline Denis. This is not long after Pauline’s father, the Nabi artist Maurice Denis, is killed when he is struck by a truck driven by a German soldier.

With the aim of understanding movement to further enrich her art, Gilot begins to study dance with Marguerite Bougai, a devotee of Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham.

By December, Gilot resumes her visits to Picasso’s studio and their relationship begins to unfold. Picasso is clearly enchanted with Gilot. And for her, this relationship provides the young Gilot with endless opportunities for open dialogues, which are received with an ease of understanding. Although they are from two different generations – Gilot is 40 years younger than Picasso – they both feel a miraculous affinity.


In February, Gilot participates in a group exhibition at the Raymond Duncan Gallery, a gallery owned by the brother of Isadora Duncan on rue de Seine.

By mid-winter, Gilot and Picasso are seeing each other rather frequently, sometimes rendezvousing at a museum for privacy. During one visit to Picasso’s studio, Gilot meets Andre Malraux, considered a role model by Gilot and her contemporaries.

Gilot becomes even more focused on her painting, working to gain command of the formal language of art while also addressing her interest in symbolic content. She searches for a means of expressing both philosophical and personal concerns. Gilot’s desire to energize her art with symbolic meaning that must be deciphered to be understood will become a constant in her work.

Gilot continues to meet many of Picasso’s friends during her studio visits, among them, the poet Pierre Reverdy, Jean Marais, Jean Cocteau, and the photographer Brassai. Picasso takes Gilot to meet Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas at their apartment on rue Christine. Following this introduction, Françoise frequently meets Gertrude during her late morning walks along rue de Buci and engages her in conversation about Picasso, Matisse and others.

Gilot makes a number of costume design sketches for the dancer, Marguerite Bougai.

Later that spring, Gilot attends the 21st birthday party of a friend, Raymonde Terrail, where she meets Luc Simon, a handsome, aspiring French artist of her own generation.

August 24: the Liberation of Paris. Gilot continues to focus more earnestly on her work and consequently begins seeing less of Picasso during the ensuing months.

In October, Gilot enrolls at The School of Fine Arts to continue her studies and work as a teacher’s aide with Jean Souverbie, who has recently transferred there from the Academie Julian to establish a division for composition and monumental art. Gilot only attends the morning drawing classes, which focus on composition and sketching from nature. In the afternoons, she works at home.


In the company of Louis Parrot, a well-known art critic who is very supportive of her work, Gilot frequently visits with Jean Dubuffet in his studio on Boulevard Raspail. Not long after, Parrot introduces Gilot, to a group of other painters who are congregating around such artists as Jean Deyrolle, Nicolas de Stael, Sonia Delaunay and Brancusi, to form a new movement called Realities Nouvelles (New Realities) – dedicated to the idea of “pure painting.” Gilot initially finds this new discipline of working with purely abstract concern stimulating.

Having had virtually no contact with her for a number of months, Picasso intensifies his pursuit of Gilot, sometimes searching her out as she gives riding lessons in the Bois de Boulonge, insisting that she come to visit him at his studio on rue des Grands-Augustins.

October 20: By invitation, Gilot participates in the Salon des Surindependants with Andre Beaudin, Gustave Bolin, Victor Brauner, Jean Deyrolle, Suzanne Roger and other artist including many from the Realities Nouvelles. She exhibits several recent abstract canvases including: Construction (1945) and Complementary Forces (1945). Following the exhibition and in spite of her good reviews, de Stael confronts Gilot regarding what he calls the purity of her “artistic platform” in regard to figurative art. Gilot decides that working solely without reference to external reality is too limiting and she breaks with this group of artists.

November 26: As a birthday gift to herself, Gilot reconnects with Picasso resuming her afternoon visits to his studio. She finds him working at Fernand Mourlot’s Atelier, and deeply immersed in lithography. In the proofs Picasso shows her, Gilot can see she has been very much on his mind. Most of the prints, in one way or another, are portraits of Gilot. Gilot begins to accompany Picasso to the Mourlot Atelier on rue de Chabrol, near the Gare de l’Est.

Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot in Antibes, 1946 (Photo: Michel Sima)

In January, Gilot falls down a darkened marble stairway at her grandmother’s home and breaks her arm. After her release from the hospital, Gilot, accompanied by her grandmother, travels to the Midi to recuperate. She leaves her grandmother in Antibes and travels to Golfe-Juan, near Cannes, where Picasso has arranged for her to stay at Villa Pour Toi, the home of Monsieur Louis Fort, a retired artisan-engraver. Since Monsieur Fort still had his hand presses, some copper plates, and all the necessary tools, Gilot decides to make a few etchings with the elderly master-printer. She remains in Golfe-Juan for over a month, inviting Genevieve to join her there.

Later in February, Picasso arrives in Golfe-Juan from Paris and friction erupts between he and Genevieve, both vying for Françoise’s attention. In a fit of rage, during one his more heated confrontations with Gilot regarding the placement of her affections, Picasso extinguishes his cigarette on her cheek. Yet knowing her immense admiration for Henri Matisse, Picasso takes Gilot at the end of February to meet the Fauvist master at Le Reve, his villa in Vence. Matisse declares that he wishes to make a portrait of Françoise in which her auburn hair would become green and her complexion light blue. Picasso is annoyed at Matisse’s presumption.

In early March, Gilot and Picasso return to Paris. Picasso immediately mounts a forceful campaign, insisting that Gilot leave her grandmother’s home and come to live with him at his studio on Rue des Grand-Augustins.

One night in May, and in spite of her reservations, Gilot accepts to begin a daily existence living with Picasso at his Paris studio. She sends letters, dictated by Pablo, to her mother and grandmother offering little explanation other than she has decided to go away and live in another manner.

In June, Picasso takes Gilot to meet Georges Braque at his home on rue du Douanier, across from Parc Montsouris. Picasso begins painting Le Femme-Fleur (1946), his most well known portrait of Gilot – her auburn hair transposed to green, her body and face in multiple tones of light blue.

Picasso takes Gilot on holiday to Menerbes where they stay in a house Picasso gave to Dora Maar. The stay was not pleasant for Gilot – scorpions scuttled everywhere – and after only three weeks, Gilot decides to leave Picasso and hitchhike to Marseilles, where she has friends. Picasso finds her on the road and entreats her to return, declaring his love and suggesting that what Gilot really needs is a child.

During the summer, Françoise decides to dedicate herself to the austerity of only pencil on paper – in order to intensely study the structural qualities of drawing and to realize a more rapid development of ideas than afforded by oil on canvas. By late August, Gilot and Picasso have returned to Golfe-Juan. Gilot meets Paul Eluard and his wife, Nusch.

During September, October and part of November, Gilot and Picasso work in a drafty, large room in the Grimaldi castle in Antibes. They return to Paris by the end of November.

Françoise Gilot in the garden, Vallauris, 1947 (Photo: Djon Midi)

May 15: Birth of their first child, a son, delivered at Le Belvedere clinic in Boulogne, by Doctor Lamaze. Gilot decides to name the child, Claude, after Watteau’s teacher, Claude Gillot.

Gilot and Picasso begin spending less and less time at the Paris studio and more time in Golfe-Juan at the house of Monsieur Fort.

At the end of summer, Picasso becomes quite intrigued with ceramics and begins working with Jean and Suzanne Ramie, who own the Madoura pottery factory in nearby Vallauris.

In early December, Picasso and Gilot again visit Matisse at his villa in Vence.


In the spring, Gilot and Picasso leave the Golfe-Juan apartment of Monsieur Fort and move into a small house, La Galloise, set among two acres of gardens in the hills of Vallauris.

Gilot earnestly continues her explorations on paper, now drawing sculptural and increasingly more minimalist forms by incising them with thin graphite pencil into pale, wet gouache, producing an intaglio effect.

Through both visits and correspondence, Gilot establishes an open dialogue with Matisse. As encouragement, Matisse purchases one of Gilot’s abstract, almost linear drawings of birds, remarking that whenever Françoise draws birds, no matter how remote from reality they may be, they fly.

Françoise Gilot and her children Claude and Paloma
In August, Picasso leaves for a Peace Conference in Warsaw Poland. Only planning to be away a few days, he does not return for two weeks.


April 19: birth of their second child, a daughter. Born on the opening day of the Peace Congress at the Salle Pleyel in Paris, Picasso decides she should be named, Paloma, in honor of the dove of peace – a symbol Picasso created on posters, now all over Paris commemorating the Peace Congress. Following the birth of Paloma, Gilot becomes more interested in figurative subject matters and develops a freer hand in her drawing.

Gilot begins to paint again with oils on wood panels, initially white paintings incised with determined pencil lines reminiscent of her gouaches of the previous year.

Having first seen her drawings in 1946 and being impressed by the “severity” of her research, Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler, director of the Galerie Louise Leiris and Picasso’s dealer in Paris, offers Gilot a contract to become her exclusive dealer. Gilot was one of only two woman artists ever under contract with Kahnweiler during his entire influential career as a dealer.

In October, the family returns to Vallauris. By this time Picasso’s interest in ceramics is starting to wane and he returns to painting and sculpture, working in an old perfumery on rue du Fournas.

Currently involved in making designs with boldly painted paper cutouts, Matisse assembles several on a sheet, creating an abstract portrait of Gilot. She is enchanted when Matisse inscribes the paper cutout composition as a gift to her.

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Early Years - 1940s - 1950s - 1960s - 1970s - 1980s - 1990s - 2000s