In the annals of art history, Françoise Gilot is most remembered as the only woman to have loved and left Pablo Picasso. But she is a talented and prolific artist in her own right — one who inspired Tory’s Spring 2015 collection — and, today, Sotheby’s in New York is auctioning off a selection of her artwork as part of its Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale. Going under the hammer are seven works, including Étude Bleue, 1953, a self-portrait painted the year she left Picasso, and drawings of her children with him, Claude and Paloma (yes, the perfumer and jewelry designer who was part of that famous Yves Saint Laurent-Loulou de la Falaise Seventies circle of friends). Here, a closer look at the woman in the spotlight.

The Encounter
Gilot met Picasso at the Left Bank restaurant, Le Catalan, in 1943. She, then 21, was already an emerging artist and having dinner with her friend Geneviève and the actor Alain Cuny (whom Geneviève had a crush on). Picasso, 61 and sitting at the next table with Dora Maar, came over with a bowl of cherries. Cuny introduced the girls as “the pretty one” and “the intelligent one” — Gilot was the latter.

À la Mode
Her studies in art and law are well documented, but Gilot also briefly studied fashion design under Lucien Lelong, the famed French couturier (for whom Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain once worked). The stint would come in handy later in life when she dabbled in costume design (e.g. for La Frange des Mots in Paris, 1952, and Satyavan: Dream Twilight in New York, 1985).

Mad about Matisse
Gilot was a great admirer of the Fauvist artist and, in February 1946, Picasso took her to visit him at his home in Vence, in the southeast of France. She wore a mauve blouse and green pants. Matisse received them while in bed; he wore a green sweater. In 1990, Gilot would publish a book on those two art greats, Matisse and Picasso: A Friendship in Art.

Non, Nein, Nyet, Nope
Gilot held her own against the willful Picasso and was never afraid to say no. Once, Picasso wanted to do a painting of her on horseback — as a child, Gilot was a tomboy who rode at the Bois de Boulogne — but she put a stop to that. Instead, he painted her atop a bull.

The Curious Case Of
In the early Forties, she designed a collection of ceramic buttons for Parisian designer Line Vautrin, who was known for her jewelry and decorative objects (mirrors, cigarette cases).

Two Is Better Than One
She was an ambidextrous artist. It’s said she began writing with her left hand as a child, but her father forced her to write with her right — resulting in Gilot being equally at ease using either hand.

Between the Acts
Gilot served as Art Director of Virginia Woolf Quarterly from 1973 to the magazine’s closing in 1977. The appointment didn’t come out of nowhere; she was a fan of the writer and, in the Fifties after a trip to England, painted lighthouses inspired by the Woolf’s own Godrevy Lighthouse.

Qui Êtes-Vous, Mrs. Jonas Salk?
She is Françoise Gilot. Decades after her years with Picasso, Gilot married Jonas Sack, M.D. — the very scientist who developed the polio vaccine. The marriage lasted till his death, in 1995, just days before their 25th anniversary.

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