Francoise Gilot, who died on June 6, 2023 at the age of 101, led an astounding life. A highly regarded artist in her own right, she is inevitably—and perhaps unfairly—best known for her relationship with Pablo Picasso. They were together from 1943 to 1953, and they had two children together, Claude and Paloma. In 1964 Gilot published a popular and unflattering memoir of her life with Picasso that the artist unsuccessfully attempted to quash. A sign of the tumultuousness of their relationship is that there was a 1996 movie about it titled Surviving Picasso.
In 1970 she went on to marry Jonas Salk, inventor of the polio vaccine (this gallery includes an image of him as photographed by LIFE’s Alfred Eisenstaedt). Gilot and Salk were together until his death in 1995. When asked how she ended up in relationships with two of the most important figures of the 20th century, she explained, “Lions mate with lions.”
It was due to her proximity to Picasso that Gilot appeared before LIFE’s cameras. She was a presence in a 1968 double-issue of the magazine devoted entirely to Picasso. And she was also photographed by LIFE staff photographer Gjon Mili, who took perhaps the most famous photographs of Picasso, which featured the great artist drawing with light.
Gilot also drew with light—and to great effect—in one of Mili’s photos of her. Mili also took a beguiling portrait of Gilot using the multiple exposures he had deployed throughout his career. Other photos show Gilot holding Picasso’s drawings of her son Claude while the young boy sat in the foreground.
In 2021 her painting Paloma à la Guitare sold for $1.3 million at auction, a sign of the esteem in which her own work is held. If you wish to read more about Gilot, please visit this site devoted to her life and works.