There are some painters who paint for the public. I don’t,” Françoise Gilot says, sitting on the sofa in her cozy living room with its barrel-vaulted exposed-brick ceiling. “I paint for myself, basically. If people like it, bravo; if they don’t, I don’t care. I don’t really care at all. Sometimes it’s better because then I get to keep it.” From where I’m sitting, I can see into her double-height studio, where she still, at 98, paints every day, working on at least two canvases at once, an easel on each end of the space. She looks at me with her piercing blue-gray eyes and has a little smile as she answers questions about her art and her extraordinary life. Or lives: She rebelled against her strict parents’ ambitions for her and quit law school to be an artist in Paris, where Pablo Picasso fell for her in 1943. They spent ten years together, never married, but had two children, Claude and Paloma. Then she left him—the only woman who ever did. He wasn’t very gallant about it or about her brief marriage in 1955 to painter Luc Simon, with whom she had a daughter, Aurélia, the next year. After that, she once wrote, “Pablo Picasso declared open war on me.”
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