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  • Writer's pictureWILLIAM A SLOAN

Have a Francois Gilot Day

Just for this picture alone.

When they met, she was 21 and Picasso was 61. They parented 2 children, she inspired his work endlessly, she continued her own creative output and they had a tempestuous affair for 11 years. When their affair ended, keeping in mind he was by this point 72 and richer than it’s possible to be and probably the most famous artist in the world, he used his considerable clout to blackball her artistic career. And she was talented in a very big way.

I think, if I were a woman, I’d be angry all the time.

Time changes perception. Once upon a time, Picasso was viewed as a living myth; a Spanish bull made human; a swaggering, unapologetic, macho guy with an artist’s soul and needs. Not unlike Ernest Hemingway, who was recaptured and presented, through the lens of Ken Burns, as a self-indulgent, insecure child-man who lived as a very non-struggling artist, thanks to the bankrolls of his wives.

Heroic? Legendary? Attractive? Not so much.

But back to Francois Gilot, who had self-esteem beyond her generation. She got out. She untangled herself from the knotted cords of a tangled, aging ego, and repositioned herself as...herself. Her art flourished, her reputation continued to grow, she earned respect, she lived her life.

So interesting to think that her more successful partner in conscious coupling turned out to be, several years later, Jonas Salk, her husband for 25 years, a mild-mannered, very private genius who invented the first polio vaccine and generously stated it was the property of the people. They also chose to live half of each year apart, able to concentrate on their own needs and goals, without guilting the other into feigned interest.

At some point, everyone has to decide whether they are the star of their own life and not just an extra in someone else’s. You can still be a supporting player – an inspiring, memorable supporting player in someone else’s story, but don’t ever lose sight of your own magic.

The most important thing in life is to be true to yourself. You can be true to others, if you have time.

– Francois Gilot

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