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

1960 - 1969

Françoise Gilot, circa 1963
(Photo: Endre Rozsda)

Gilot returns to London and makes several visits to Kew Gardens, enchanted by the quality of muted light filtering through the paint-washed glass of the greenhouses.

In 1961, having explored the antecedents in her recent work, Gilot embarks upon one of her most significant group of paintings, the “Vegetation series”, inspired by the plant-life and light she experienced at Kew Gardens and in similar greenhouses around Paris. These works represent Gilot’s first sustained statement of a truly personal style, free from the reminiscences of Picasso, Matisse and others who preceded her.

By the end of 1960, Gilot legally secures the Ruiz-Picasso name for her children, Claude and Paloma.

In January 1961, Picasso privately and secretly marries Jacqueline Roque in the city hall in Vallauris.

In February, Gilot begins writing, Life with Picasso with the collaboration of the critic Carlton Lake.

Later in February, Gilot makes her first trip to the United States, visiting friends and collectors in New York City and Philadelphia. Gilot meets a number of artists including: Tony Rosenthal, Barnett Newman, Adolph Gottlieb, Paul Jenkins, Jean Dubuffet, and Louise Nevelson.

In May, Gilot meets Sylvan Cole, the director of Associated American Artists, and he commissions her to make new lithographs for his catalogue sales program.

Gilot spends the summer months with friends in Greece. Later in 1961, while agreeing to remain in good terms, Gilot and Luc Simon separate.


Gilot returns to London in May for an exhibition of her paintings and drawings at the Mayor Gallery. In the summer, Gilot charters a yacht belonging to friends and sails with her son, Claude, and a crew of three in the Aegean Sea among the Greek Islands. While there, she ponders the classic Greek myths.

Aurelia and Luc Simon, 1963 (Photo: Claude Picasso)
Gilot spends the remainder of 1962 and all of 1963 on the pictorial development of over fifty canvases, which tell story of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur. Seeing the myth from an androgynous point of view, there is nothing descriptive about the paintings – only structures, rhythms, and colors that by themselves evoke the different phases of the legend. She calls these paintings her “Labyrinth series”.

Concurrently working on her text for Life with Picasso, Gilot devotes three days a week to writing and three days a week to painting the Labyrinth series of canvases. She would often work through the night.

Late in the year, Gilot returns to the United States, selling a number of her watercolors and oils at a private exhibition in November organized by the French Consul. Collectors receive her work with enthusiasm and suggest that Gilot should consider moving to the United States.

Before the end of the year, Gilot and Luc Simon are divorced and she sells her studio on rue de Val Grace, in Paris.


In May, Galerie Coard organizes a fine exhibition of paintings from the “Labyrinth Series”. They are met with some supporters and many critics.

Gilot decides that Life with Picasso should be published first in the United States. By the end of summer, the manuscript of Life with Picasso, written with Carlton Lake, is complete. Gilot hires lawyers to review the entire text regarding issues of libel.

In the late summer, with the advances she receives for the book, Life with Picasso, Gilot enlarges La Galloise, her home in Vallauris to give more space to her children.


Gilot reviews the final proofs for Life with Picasso and meets with various translators for the Spanish, Italian, German and other foreign language editions.

Cover of Life with Picasso
In November, Life with Picasso, by Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, is published in the United States. Life with Picasso is the Book of the Month Club selection. Remaining at the top of the best-seller list for over six months, the English language edition sells over one million hardcover copies within the first year.

Picasso and his sycophants are outraged. Without having actually read the book – he could not read English - Picasso immediately seeks an injunction against the publisher to stop further publications of the book.

Back at work, Gilot begins to reintroduce figuration into her paintings, mostly landscapes of Greek ruins. – metaphors for the powerlessness of modern man in the face of his destiny.

Upon the recommendation of the Director of the Tate Gallery in London, Gilot is offered a large studio in Sydney Close, in Chelsea.


In March and April, Gilot exhibits mostly figurative paintings and gouaches at the David Findley Gallery in New York City.

In late autumn, having finally lost all three lawsuits to stop the publication of Life with Picasso in France, Pablo telephones Françoise at her home in Neuilly to recognize her as a winner; for although he does not approve of what she has done, she has emerged victorious and for that she has his admiration. This is the last conversation Gilot ever has with Picasso.

At the end of the year, Gilot exhibits her gouaches in Milan, Italy, and her paintings in Hamburg, Germany.


In May, Gilot exhibits her work at Galerie Coard, in Paris and, in June, at Galleria Santo Stefano in Venice, Italy. During the opening of her exhibition in Italy, she meets Giorgio de Chirico.

Although now spending about three months a year in the United States, Gilot rents a new, larger studio in Paris on rue de Sablons.

Gilot continues making lithographs at the Mourlot Atelier, in Paris, and also at Editions Nicolini, in Milan.


Gilot is offered a new contract with the Leicester Gallery. Gilot was previously connected with this gallery as a part of her contract with Galerie Louise Leiris, in Paris, in the early 1950s. She had shown her work there only once, as part of a group exhibition in 1954.

Gilot travels twice to the United States, exhibiting and lecturing extensively throughout Michigan and the Midwest.

Immersing herself into a new series of larger and more monumental paintings to explore Greek themes as they relate to the biological and the historical cycles of man, Gilot sometimes works 72 hours without sleep.


Claude lives in New York, working as a photographer for Conde Nast, the publisher of Vogue, and other magazines. Paloma begins studying jewelry design and fabrication in Paris. Aurelia is in boarding school near Paris.

In May, Gilot exhibits a number of paintings and gouaches from the recent Greek series at Galerie Coard. At the end of May, Gilot leaves her Chelsea studio in London to spend additional time in the United States.

Paloma and Claude Picasso in front of a photo of their father, spring 1967 (Photo: D. Duncan)
In June, the same exhibition opens to better reviews at the Leicester Gallery, in London.

In November, Gilot travels to the United States for an exhibition of her gouaches and other works on paper at a gallery in Michigan.


In March, Claude Picasso travels on assignment to photograph The Salk Institute in La Jolla, California and meets with Dr. Jonas Salk, the polio vaccine pioneer.

In April, Gilot exhibits recent paintings at
Galleria Dantesca in Turin, Italy,

In May, Gilot is invited by June Wayne, founding director of the renowned Tamarind Lithography Workshop, to come to Los Angeles and create lithographs with the master-printers at the Workshop. Gilot stays in Los Angeles for about a month and exhibits her paintings and gouaches at the Dalzell Hatfield Gallery.

Returning to Paris, Gilot leaves the studio she rented on rue de Sablons and purchases a new studio on rue Lauriston.

In October, during her return stay in Los Angeles to create additional lithographs at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Gilot is invited to La Jolla to stay with friends she knows from Paris. During this visit, Gilot is introduced to Dr. Jonas Salk, who offers her a tour of The Salk Institute for Biological Studies - the world renowned facility he founded in the early 1960s for conducting research dedicated to the improvement of human health - that was designed by Louis Kahn and is located nearby on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla. Gilot is familiar with Dr. Salk’s accomplishments – her children, Claude and Paloma, were among the first to receive the Salk polio vaccine in France. However, Gilot is not that conversant in science of this nature and Dr. Salk is not all that knowledgeable about art. Their mutual love of architecture immediately becomes a common ground for enthusiastic dialogue.

Being strongly attracted to Gilot, Dr. Salk follows her to New York in October and to Paris in December. Gilot invites him to join her at La Galloise for the Christmas holidays.

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