French Window in Blue, 1939 Oil on canvas, 16 1/8 x 10 5/8 in. (41 x 27 cm.) Private Collection
Gilot's first oil on canvas is a typically French scene, revealing an outlook of optimism as painted by an adolescent girl of seventeen. The cool interior of the room focuses the viewer through the French doors, beyond the balcony ironwork and onward to the clear blue sky and warm hues of the surrounding landscape of Fontes, perhaps suggesting a future of myriad adventures.
Françoise Gilot is one of the most enduring artists of the post World
War II School of Paris. After deciding at the age of five that she wanted to be an artist, Françoise has plotted a course for her career which is interwoven with the evolution of modern art in the 20th Century.
Self Portrait (Figure in the Wind), 1944 Oil on canvas, 8 x 13 in. (22 x 33 cm.) Collection Paloma Picasso, London
Françoise was born in Paris and raised in an environment that fostered interest in both the arts and the sciences - her father was a well-respected businessman and agronomist and her mother was an accomplished watercolorist. Although her father deemed that Françoise was to become
an international lawyer, her independent spirit compelled her to lead
a double life, secretly studying art instead of attending her morning law classes. A consuming passion to continue her studies solely in art further alienated her from her parents and Françoise sought the support of other family members establishing her first studio in the attic of her grandmother's home in Paris.
Le Tea, 1952 Oil on board, 21 1/4 x 25 5/8 in. (54 x 65 cm.) Collection Dr. Mel Yoakum, California
An almost riotous interpretation of a most civilized pastime, this still life suggests a certain amount of chaos on the domestic scene - the disso- nance of the affair reinforced by both the color palette and the plasticity of the forms.
Even at the young age of 21, Françoise Gilot was one of the most respected artists of the emerging School of Paris, a movement struggling for recognition during the years of The Occupation.
The Lighthouse at Beachy Head, 1960 Oil on canvas, 70 7/8 x 23 5/8 in. (180 x 60 cm.) Collection Dr. Mel Yoakum, California
This lighthouse, associated with the stories by Virginia Woolf which Gilot fondly remembers reading as an adolescent, appears symbolic of the threatening waves which were breaking all around her at that time in her career. In 1959 and 1960 Gilot traveled several times to Britain, staying with the Penrose family at their farm near the town of Lewis, not far from the last home of Virginia Woolf. Each time, upon returning to her Paris studio, Gilot completed a number of canvases - from memory - relating to themes of London and Britain. Following her divorce from Luc Simon in 1962, Gilot went to London in 1964, working part of the year in a large studio in Chelsea while still maintaining her studio in Paris. During this same period, she also became quite interested in the New York School and commuted for several months each year establishing a studio there, as well.
Then, in 1943, during the time of her first important exhibition in Paris, Françoise met Pablo Picasso, an artist 40 years her senior. In 1946, Gilot and Picasso began a decade long relationship and Françoise became both a witness and a participant in one of the last great periods of the modern art movement in Europe. Their circle included poets, philosophers, writers, and many of the legends of the art world, such as Braque, Chagall, Cocteau, and Matisse. This artistic union was also shared with their two children, Claude and Paloma whose antics and acrobatic postures were often captured in drawings and paintings. By late 1953, the relationship with Picasso had run its course and Gilot left the home she shared with him in Vallauris and returned to Paris with their children.
In 1964, Françoise published Life with Picasso, and over a million copies were sold the first year. Life with Picasso has been translated into more than a dozen languages and it remains today a uniquely compelling and insightful observation about the human side of creative genius.
Red and Gold, 1978 Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 28 3/4 in. (60 x 73 cm.)
Gilot's principal concern in this canvas was color relationships. She recalls that the painting began abstractly and then gradually took on the structural elements of a landscape. Like its antecedents in her Greek landscapes of the late 1960s, a sense of dimension and space is communicated through the horizontal alignment of the composition and through color as light, rather than through detail.
In 1969, during an exhibition in Los Angeles, Françoise traveled to
La Jolla and was introduced to Dr. Jonas Salk. Their mutual admiration of architecture prompted Dr. Salk to offer Françoise a tour of The Salk Institute, the renowned research facility he had founded on the bluffs overlooking the pacific. Their courtship was brief -- Françoise knew well the science of art and Jonas understood the art of science. With both their families in attendance, Paris was the site of a private wedding ceremony in June of 1970.
During her 25-year marriage to Dr. Salk, Françoise Gilot maintained studios in La Jolla, New York and Paris and her career continued to evolve and thrive - her work further infused with maturity and discovery. In addition to strongly structured canvases, often composed with a dominant cadmium red, Gilots oeuvre expanded to include monumental floating paintings, luminous monotypes and strong, technically sophisticated color lithographs and aquatints.
Dark Moon, 2002 Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 31 7/8 in. (100 x 81 cm.)
Even after seventy years, Françoise Gilot continues to work as a painter wresting from form and color a visual statement that is at once both personal and universal. She is not content with the known; she views her task as an artist to transform and extend perceptions and to stimulate viewers towards new insights and experiences. In Gilots most recent paintings, the forces of nature, time and space are her preoccupations. Clearly, Gilots own explorations and achievements as an artist demonstrate how the vitality of a tradition can be maintained while simultaneously moving forward into the uncharted territories of the art world continuum.