You may have heard of the book Life with Picasso, by French painter and author Francoise Gilot. But I doubt you know Gilot was Picasso’s Sugar Baby, some 40 years younger than one of the greatest and most influential artists of the 20th century.
Sugar Daddy Pablo Picasso, then 61, first saw Gilot in a restaurant in the spring of 1943 when she was just 21. He quickly replaced his mistress, Dora Maar, with the much younger artist who moved in with him in 1946. They spent a tempestuous 10 years together, producing two children – Claude Picasso and Paloma Picasso.
They were never formally married and during their time together Gilot was often harassed on the streets of Paris by Picasso’s legal wife, Olga Khokhlova, a former Russian ballet dancer.
When Gilot decided she’d had enough, took her kids and left Picasso he told her she was “headed straight for the desert,” because no-one would ever have more than “a kind of curiosity….about a person whose life has touched mine so intimately.”
Picasso couldn’t have been more wrong – she went on to marry twice again – including to another genius Jonas Salk (who developed the polio vaccine,) had another child and eleven years after their separation, Gilot wrote Life with Picasso.
The book sold over one million copies in dozens of languages, despite an unsuccessful legal challenge from Picasso attempting to stop its publication. From then on, Picasso refused to see Claude or Paloma ever again.
Gilot, one time Sugar Baby of the greatest Sugar Daddy artist of all time, is now a spritely 92 years old who paints every day.