January 21, 2022

"As young women, we were taught to keep silent. We were taught early that taking second place is easier than first."

"You tell yourself that’s all right, but it’s not all right. It is important that we learn to express ourselves, to say what it is that we like, that we want."

Said Françoise Gilot, quoted in "Françoise Gilot: ‘It Girl’ at 100 The painter, writer and the only woman with the spunk and self-determination to leave Picasso has a few things to say about success, personal style and the nature of intimacy" (NYT).

She has not always been above using her looks to further her aims. Soon after they met, she writes, she took up Picasso’s invitation to teach her engraving. “I arrived on time wearing a black velvet dress with a high white lace collar, my dark red hair done up in a coiffure I had taken from a painting of the Infanta by Velázquez.”

When he remarked that her turnout was ill-suited for engraving, she informed him that she knew he had no intention of teaching that day. “I was simply trying to look beautiful,” she told him.

"She has not always been above using her looks to further her aims" — Is that sarcastic understatement?

Speaking of herself now, at the age of 100, she says: “Maybe I rather like the way I look... A sense of style is important... It’s like a pane of glass that makes you seem transparent but at the same time is a barrier.... You should not make yourself known that much to other people and keep your most intimate thoughts to yourself... People tell you to be natural. But what is natural, I would like to know?"

I read her book "Life with Picasso" half a century ago. Highly recommended.

How are you picturing that Infanta hairdo? This seems rather implausible:

39 comments:

p said...

"Surviving Picasso" with Anthony Hopkins and Natascha McElhone was based on her book - fantastic film... I'm glad that the heroine made it to 100

Ann Althouse said...

@p

Thanks. I don't remember hearing about that movie (though I must have) and I love AH.

And I see it's a Merchant and Ivory film. But it got bad reviews. 32% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Roger Ebert wrote:

"The movie breaks down into anecdotes that don't flow or build, and everything is narrated by the Gilot character. McElhone, who is electric and convincing when she's onscreen, is a bad voice-over narrator, and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala has not helped with language that seems formal and stilted, like a schoolgirl's commentary for an educational film.

"There is much to admire in “Surviving Picasso,” especially in Hopkins' performance and in the flashes that all of the supporting characters bring. (Joss Ackland has a gentle charm as Henri Matisse, Joan Plowright is self-assured as Francoise's grandmother, and Julianne Moore is edgy and resigned as Dora Maar.) But when it is over we are left with the conclusion that if Picasso had not been a great artist, this story would not have much mattered; as a beast toward women, he was nothing special."

Maybe I'll give it a try. I see it's on Amazon Prime (for $4).

David Begley said...

The “It Girl” was later married to Jonas Salk!

And there was a 40 year age difference between her and Picasso when then took up.

Scot said...

Mme. Gilot is very striking.
She has a face like a Picasso painting.

rhhardin said...

Today she'd have a job in Human Resources.

sean said...

Slutty girl sleeps her way to modest success, then learns to speak the language of female empowerment. Most porn stars have learned that discourse, just as evangelical Christians and Muslims have learned the discourse of "discrimination." Liberals like Prof. Althouse are always puzzled when the language they valorize is used to defend causes that make them uneasy.

rhhardin said...

Karen L Kleinfelder's The Artist, His Model, Her Image, His Gaze: Picasso's Pursuit of the Model is good, lots of illustrations and commentary.

A tiny female misunderstanding of male motivation gets Picasso's sudden lack of interest in pussy wrong in very old age ("he's come to terms with his mortality"). Otherwise great, particularly the first chapter, noticing things you wouldn't notice yourself.

Limited Perspective said...

Sounds like she had good parents. It's true young people should be taught to keep silent (unless her parents never taught her speak, that would be bad) until they have gained some wisdom through experience. It's self-evident that being second is easier than being first.

Or is this one of those women feeling sorry for themselves again?

gilbar said...

It Girl? Hello! Clara Bow is The Girl

Lurker21 said...

Genius, a National Geographic series a few years back, also dramatized their relationship as well as Picasso's life.

My dim recollection that she was the predator, an ambitious artistic tuft-hunter, and Picasso, quite a randy old goat throughout his life, was emotionally sort of burnt out by the Fifties.

It's strange that Gilot was married Jonas Salk. I wonder what was really going on between them, but I don't really want to know the details.

I found out recently that Merchant and Ivory were long-time lovers. It did surprise me -- it probably shouldn't have -- but I don't really want to know the details there either.

rehajm said...

I hate spunk…

Ann Althouse said...

Arianna Huffington first came into the public eye by writing "Picasso, The Destroyer" (excerpted here, at The Atlantic, in 1988).

Sample text:

""Where are you, Jacqueline?" Picasso cried from his bedroom. His heart and his lungs were both fast giving out. He tried to talk, but he was suffocating. His words, coming through his gasps for air, sounded like wailing, hard to understand.... "Where are you, Jacqueline?" He turned to Dr. Bernal. "You are wrong not to be married. It's useful." They were his last coherent words.

"“When I die,” Picasso had prophesied, "It will be a shipwreck, and as when a huge ship sinks, many people all around will be sucked down with it."

"On the morning of Picasso's burial Pablito, excluded from his grandfather's funeral, drank a container of potassium-chloride bleach. He was taken to the hospital in Antibes, where the doctors found that it was too late to save his digestive organs. He died three months later, on July 11, 1973, of starvation.

"On October 20, 1977, in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of their meeting, Marie-Thérèse hanged herself in the garage of her house in Juan-les-Pins. She was sixty-eight years old. In a farewell letter to Maya, she wrote of an "irresistible compulsion." "You have to know what his life had meant to her," Maya said later "It wasn't just his dying that drove her to it. It was much, much more than that. … Their relationship was crazy. She felt she had to look after him—even when he was dead! She couldn't bear the thought of him alone, his grave surrounded by people who could not possibly give him what she had given him.""

Ann Althouse said...

One more paragraph from that Huffington article:

"Just after midnight on October 15, 1986, Jacqueline called Aurelio Torrente, the director of the Spanish Museum of Contemporary Art, in Madrid, to discuss the final details of the exhibition of her personal selection of Picasso's paintings that was to open in Madrid ten days later. She assured him that she would be there for the opening. At three o'clock in the morning she lay on her bed, pulled the sheet up to her chin, and shot herself in the temple. She had left behind a list of everyone she wanted at her funeral ."

michaele said...

I'm glad the NYTimes link stayed active long enough (before the paywall shut the door to it) so I could see the photo of her in all her 100 year old red suited glory. Ha, rehajm, yes, she does look like she has "spunk". That was one of the best Lou Grant Mary Tyler Moore scenes ever.

What's emanating from your penumbra said...

"She had left behind a list of everyone she wanted at her funeral"

This is the perfect sentence to wrap up all of this subject.

MadisonMan said...

Why use those quotes as if what was expected of women back in the 1930s is relevant today?

Josephbleau said...

Wow, if you are famous, they really do let you grab them by the pussy.

rehajm said...

That was one of the best Lou Grant Mary Tyler Moore scenes ever

Thank you michaele- yes, one of the best lines ever…

Robert Cook said...

"It's strange that Gilot was married Jonas Salk. I wonder what was really going on between them, but I don't really want to know the details."

One can guess he gave her plenty of "vaccinations!"

Puerile jokes aside, why strange? Why wonder "what was really going on between them"? (One might as well wonder what goes on between any couples in pair bonds.) Why are you pretending to "(not) really want to know the details"?

Mike Petrik said...

None of the women I know are silent. Ever actually.

Joe Smith said...

I just had to do an image search.

An attractive woman but nothing to write home about.

Bonus points for the red hair.

Picasso was kind of a horn dog though so I don't think he was too picky...

Big Mike said...

Why use those quotes as if what was expected of women back in the 1930s is relevant today?

@MadMan, because as late as the 1970s women (e.g., my late mother-in-law) were trying to push that bilge on their daughters. My wife ignored that bilge. But even then it was scarcely universal; my sisters, for instance, were raised that they need never be submissive.

And the 1970s were a half century ago.

What's emanating from your penumbra said...

because as late as the 1970s women (e.g., my late mother-in-law) were trying to push that bilge on their daughters. My wife ignored that bilge. But even then it was scarcely universal; my sisters, for instance, were raised that they need never be submissive.

It was "Scarcely universal". What an understatement.

Having grown up in a conservative and religious family in a small town in Texas surrounded by other conservative and religious families, the two things that stick out in my mind about how people approached this issue are: (1) that my sister was encouraged to do anything that her brothers did that she wanted to do, and (2) the mind-numbingly stupid chant "anything boys can do, girls can do better," which my contemporaries, even so-called conservatives, continue to recite to this day. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bg2VE7u75nk

mikee said...

Netflix has "Modigliani" available right now, in which a young Picasso appears. The roles of women as models, lovers, patrons and objects of abuse by the artistically talented human pigs are central to the movie.

rcocean said...

women are always taught to remain silent. And they never, never, are.

bentoak said...

Keeping silent and taking second place are good rules to live by.

Gospace said...

NCAA is doing it's level best that real women finishing second (or third or fourth) is the only correct thing to do.

Iman said...

Pablo Picasso was asshoe?

Gerda Sprinchorn said...

"I read her book "Life with Picasso" half a century ago. Highly recommended."

Yes, an excellent book. Very interesting to watch Picasso using his fame and talent to get what he wanted from all the people who wanted to get something from Picasso.

Very interesting subtext: why does Gilot put up with his obnoxiousness? Answer: because of what she got in return: a big boost to her career and reflected fame.

Col. Milquetoast said...

She’s an excellent painter

Sebastian said...

"As young women, we were taught to keep silent."

I call BS.

"We were taught early that taking second place is easier than first."

I call BS. Who taught that?

"It is important that we learn to express ourselves, to say what it is that we like, that we want."

And like most women, she wanted to be with the wealthy, powerful, famous, though ugly, man. (Until she didn't.)

"She has not always been above using her looks to further her aims."

Funny stuff.

"“I was simply trying to look beautiful,” she told him."

A famous victory for feminism

"You should not make yourself known that much to other people and keep your most intimate thoughts to yourself"

Besides the preferences she made known though her behavior, did she have any "thoughts"?

Sebastian said...

In the article:

"When she showed a fear of blood and heights, he responded by making her climb tall rocks and jump . . . She strayed far from her haute bourgeois upbringing, turning her back on the father who had insisted that she study law, for the bohemian life."

Not the behavior of a parent who wanted her to be satisfied with second place. So I call BS on the retrospective feminist rationalization.

Is the inner thought, which she tells us she is hiding, that daddy was right after all?

Ann Althouse said...

"Very interesting subtext: why does Gilot put up with his obnoxiousness?"

Of all the women who put up with an awful man, she's about the least hard to understand. She had a great genius on her hands, so you get the good and the bad, perhaps you credit yourself with being able to contend with him, manage him, and you also know you're getting a lot out of the deal. It's a more challenging game than most women can play.

She got great access for a wonderful book, she got her own painting developed and promoted, and she got out when she chose. She went on to 2 more marriages, including to Jonas Salk. This was not a typical woman. All the other Picasso women did very poorly after Picasso. She has reason to think of herself as the greatest wife of all time.

What's emanating from your penumbra said...

"She has reason to think of herself as the greatest wife of all time."

Managing your marriage into the ground and a divorce pretty much excludes you from consideration for that title.

effinayright said...

"anything boys can do, girls can do better,"
********

Pee through a straw?

rcocean said...

Young women who hook up with a famous and/or rich middle-aged men are the last ones who should play the "Woe, is me. He was such a beast" card.

You didn't want someone your own age. Or someone your equal in wealth or accomplishment. You wanted the Alpha male and the challenge.

So, zero sympathy.

Narr said...

"Greatest wife of all time." GWOAT. Nice. Good looking but not stellar, average in a two piece.

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris includes a de rigueur cameo by Picasso, played by Marciel Di Fonzo Bo. What a great name.

Bob said...

It's likely that the Velazquez painting of the Infanta is the masterpiece Las Meninas, in which the Infanta, then still a young girl, is wearing a much simpler hair style.

mikee said...

Is there a diagram about men similar to the "Hot versus Crazy" x,y plot for women?
If not, what would it plot?
Looks versus obnoxiousness?
Money versus creepiness?
Fame versus abusiveness?