Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 January 2021
In 2012, the Gagosian Gallery in New York City hosted an exhibition of the artwork of Pablo Picasso and Françoise Gilot. Curated by the late art historian John Richardson, “Picasso and Françoise Gilot: Paris–Vallauris 1943–1953” featured numerous drawings, paintings, sculpture, and ceramics produced by the pair during their relationship. The collection reacquainted the public with Gilot and her compelling biography, which includes romantic partnerships with Picasso and the vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk. Queried time and again on why these notable men sought her companionship, she has often quipped, “lions mate with lions … they don’t mate with mice” – a clever riposte that gently reminds the inquirer that she is a celebrated artist in her own right.1 Her response also acknowledges the social circles in which she has traveled for much of the twentieth century. Through Picasso, she forged friendships with Georges Braque and Henri Matisse. Her 1964 memoir Vivre avec Picasso (To Live with Picasso) narrates the couple’s interactions with the likes of Georges Bataille and Charlie Chaplin. Gilot also details what Picasso told her about his past intellectual and artistic dialogues with the poet Guillaume Apollinaire or F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.2 The dynamic exchange of ideas and the creative process she describes reveal a network of cultural elites in dialogue across disciplines, educating one another and reflecting that influence in their work.