Lost for Words by Walsh, Aoife
Gilot, Francoise & Lake, Carlton
ISBN 9781681373195 NEW YORK REVIEW BOOKS – RANDOM HOUSE US June 2019 Paperback 376 pp
Franc oise Gilot is a French painter, critic, and writer. Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, she began writing and painting at a young age. In 1938, she graduated from the Sorbonne with a BA in philosophy and in 1939 from Cambridge University with a degree in English. In 1943, when Gilot was twenty-one, she met Pablo Picasso, who was sixty-one, and they had two children, Claude and Paloma. Their relationship lasted ten years, and Gilot published the bestselling Life with Picasso eleven years after their separation. In 1970, she married Jonas Salk, who pioneered the polio vaccine, and they remained married until his death in 1995. Gilot lives in Paris and New York, works on behalf of the Salk Institute in California, and continues to exhibit her work internationally.
Carlton Lake (1915-2006) was an art critic and collector, and the Paris art critic for The Christian Science Monitor. He contributed essays, short stories, and conversations with Matisse, Picasso, Chagall, Henry Moore, and Giacometti to several publications. He donated his vast collection of art–350,000 French literary materials–to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Austin, where Lake was once the director and where the items can still be viewed today.
Fran oise Gilot’s candid memoir remains the most revealing portrait of Picasso written, and gives fascinating insight into the intense and creative life shared by two modern artists.
Fran oise Gilot was in her early twenties when she met the sixty-one-year-old Pablo Picasso in 1943. Brought up in a well-to-do upper-middle-class family, who had sent her to Cambridge and the Sorbonne and hoped that she would go into law, the young woman defied their wishes and set her sights on being an artist. Her introduction to Picasso led to a friendship, a love affair, and a relationship of ten years, during which Gilot gave birth to Picasso’s two children, Paloma and Claude. Gilot was one of Picasso’s muses; she was also very much her own woman, determined to make herself into the remarkable painter she did indeed become. Life with Picasso, written with Carlton Lake and published in 1961, is about Picasso the artist and Picasso the man. We hear him talking about painting and sculpture, his life, his career, as well as other artists, both contemporaries and old masters. We glimpse Picasso in his many and volatile moods, dismissing his work, exultant over his work, entertaining his various superstitions, being an anxious father. But Life with Picasso is not only a portrait of a great artist at the height of his fame; it is also a picture of a talented young woman of exacting intelligence at the outset of her own notable career.