Life with Picasso: An Introduction

Co-authored by Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake, Life with Picasso offers an extraordinarily revealing portrait of the legendary artist Pablo Picasso. This memoir provides an intimate glimpse into Picasso’s life and mind, illuminating his thoughts on art, his interactions with fellow artists, dealers, and friends, and his complex personal relationships. Readers will find the narrative richly insightful, infused with humor, and reflective of Gilot’s own personal triumphs and challenges. This work is an essential resource for anyone seeking to understand Picasso’s creative process and his fearless approach to art.

Critical Acclaim and Perspectives

The memoir has been widely acclaimed for its depth and authenticity. Critics such as Aline Saarinen of The New York Times Book Review and John Richardson, author of A Life of Picasso, have praised Gilot as an exceptional witness to Picasso’s artistic processes and philosophies. Their insights underscore the importance of this memoir for understanding not only the artist, but also the times and people who were a part of his life. Critics such as Irving Stone and Jean Boggs have praised the book for its comprehensive and humanizing portrayal of Picasso, emphasizing the mix of personal turmoil and moments of joy that shaped Gilot’s experience.

Françoise Gilot and Picasso’s Relationship

In her early twenties, Françoise Gilot met the much older Pablo Picasso in 1943. Despite her upper-middle-class background and her family’s expectations that she pursue a career in law, Gilot was determined to become an artist. Her relationship with Picasso spanned a decade, during which she not only inspired him but also forged her own identity as a major painter. Their partnership, which resulted in the birth of two children, Paloma and Claude, left a lasting mark on the art world.

Gilot’s Early Life and Career

Born in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, Gilot was an early writer and painter, graduating from the Sorbonne with a BA in Philosophy and from Cambridge University with a degree in English. Her ten-year relationship with Picasso profoundly influenced her life, and she wrote the best-selling book Life with Picasso eleven years after their separation. Later married to Jonas Salk, the pioneer of the polio vaccine, Gilot continued to make significant contributions to the art and academic worlds. She divided her time between Paris and New York, working with the Salk Institute in California and exhibiting her work internationally.

Life with Picasso
Life with Picasso

Carlton Lake’s Contributions

Carlton Lake, co-author of Life with Picasso, was a renowned art critic and collector known for his work with The Christian Science Monitor and his extensive literary contributions to the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Austin. His collaboration with Gilot helped capture the essence of Picasso’s life and work, making this memoir a must-read for art lovers and historians alike.

Lisa Alther’s Role

Lisa Alther, who also contributed to the memoir, is known for her extensive literary work, which helped to enrich the context of this memoir. Her background and contributions deepen the understanding of Gilot’s narrative and reveal the broader literary and artistic collaboration that underpins this work.

This structured approach clarifies the various aspects and broad impact of Life with Picasso, from personal relationships and critical perspectives to the contributions of co-authors and collaborators.

Book Reviews

“An utterly fascinating volume, one of the most illuminating we have had on the mind and spirit of Picasso,” says Irving Stone of the Los Angeles Times. Jean Boggs of The Art Bulletin notes, “Although there is much anguish… …there are also moments of tenderness and elation, making this one of the most painfully honest and moving accounts of a painter’s life in the history of art.”

Selden Rodman of the Saturday Review says, “What it was really like to live with the most famous artist in history-as chauffeur, secretary, student, companion, mother, lover, and ex-lover-is now told for the first time”. Paul Pickrel of Harper’s Magazine adds, “The portrait of Picasso that emerges has a monumentality, richness, variety, and intensity of being that could only be captured by a woman of extraordinary gifts”. Emily Genauer of the New York Herald Tribune concludes, “The world owes Miss Gilot an enormous debt and a salute to what can only be described as a sensational ability to report and understand.”

Life with Picasso (New York Review Books Classics) by Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake. Hardcover: 384 pages. Publisher: NYRB Classics; Reprint edition (June 11, 2019).

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