Fine Art

Fran├žoise Gilot

French, Born 1921

Enfance IV

Oil on canvas
6 1/2 x 9 inches (16.5 x 23 cm)
Framed: 12 1/4 x 10 inches (31 x 25.4 cm)
Signed lower left and titled on the stretcher: F. Gilot


Private Collection of Luce and Arthur Klein; acquired in Paris circa 1970

The authenticity was confirmed by Arélia Engel, daughter of Françoise Gilot; the work is registered under the archive number 551.03 in the Françoise Gilot Archives.

Françoise Gilot was born in 1921 in Paris, France. Her mother, Madeleine Renoult-Gilot, was a watercolor artist, and taught young Françoise. In 1934 Gilot began taking weekly classes with her mother’s old art teach, Mlle. Meuge, and would set up her first studio in 1938 in her grandmother's attic.

Gilot studied English literature at Cambridge University and the British Institute in Paris. She graduated from the Sorbonne with a B.A. in Philosophy in 1938 and from Cambridge University with a degree in English in 1939. Ater graduation she was sent by her father to law school in Rennes, where she was pushed to pursue international law. She eventually abandoned her studies in law to devote her life to art and was mentored by the artist Endre Rozsda.

In 1943 Gilot, aged 21, met Pablo Picasso, aged 61, and for the next three years they saw much of each other as Gilot continued to work on her art and travel. In 1946 she moved in with him, and gave birth to their first child, Claude, in 1947. They moved to Vallauris in 1948 and their second child, Paloma, was born in 1949. They divided their time between Vallauris and Paris until Gilot left him in 1953.

In 1954, Gilot met Luc Simon, an artist, and the two married in 1955. Together they had a daughter, Aurelia, and though they had a happy marriage, eventually they split in 1961, remaining on good terms. During this time, Gilot faced some backlash from ending her relationship with Picasso. An art dealer who used to exhibit her work terminated her contract due to pressure from Picasso, who was also his client. In 1957 Gilot obtained a new contract with Galerie Coard and continued to create and exhibit her work in Paris and then internationally throughout the 1960s. 

Françoise Gilot returned to London in 1962, the year before she painted the present example. In the summer of that year, she chartered a yacht and sailed with her son, Claude, in the Aegean Sea of the Greek Islands. While there, she embarked on a new series of about fifty abstract canvases on the tale of Theseus, Ariane and the Minotaur, which she called her Labyrinth Series. At the same time, Gilot was in the process of writing Life with Picasso, her best-seller memoir exploring her ten-year relationship with Picasso, which she felt offered striking parallels with these myths. “The paintings represent the completion of a shift in Gilot’s style, from an emphasis on the simplification of visible realities which characterized her paintings in the decade earlier,… to a new visual language where form and content take on a symbolic resonance."1 Gilot calls these paintings her “Labyrinth Series.”  She spent the rest of that year and the next working on the symbolic series and in May, 1963 had an exhibition of these paintings in Paris, and in 1964 Life with Picasso was published. Picasso was outraged and sued three times in an attempt to stop further publishing of the book, but failed.
 In 1970 Gilot married Jonas Salk, the creator of the polio vaccine. They had a happy marriage until his death in 1995. She continues to create her art and exhibit all over the United States and the world, spending much of her time in La Jolla, New York, and Paris. She was awarded a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 1990.

Based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, this work is part of Gilot’s Labyrinth series. She produced close to 50 paintings in this series between 1961 and 1963. The works are presented emblematically rather than as representative, and there is nothing descriptive about the paintings, only rhythms, structures and colors that by themselves evoke different phases of the legend.  The paintings evoke stillness of fresh water to the flow of consciousness in the human mind.

Although our painting, Enfance IV, is numbered in the series, works were not created chronologically but perhaps this is her 4th work made on the childhood stage. The series featured a number of canvases titled after various stages of life, such as Birth and Adolescence. 

Françoise Gilot, Monograph 1940-2000, Mel Yoakum and Franoicse Gilot; Acatos, 2000,