Maya Widmaier-Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Claude Picasso has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
This Portrait de Françoise Gilot bears two dates on the canvas stretchers, with a hiatus of more than a year and a half between them. Picasso commenced the painting on 2 May 1947; less than two weeks later, Claude, the artist’s first child with Françoise, was born in Paris. In the excitement occasioned by this momentous event, Picasso set aside the picture. A few weeks later the new family left for Golfe-Juan and spent most of the next year in the Midi. In May 1948 Picasso purchased in Françoise’s name the villa “La Galloise” in Vallauris, where he had been creating pottery since the previous summer. They moved in the following month. It was not until the day after Christmas of that year, 26 December 1948, that Picasso again took up the painting and completed it, perhaps as a holiday present for Françoise. She was already pregnant with their second child—their daughter Paloma was born 19 April 1949.
The elation and tenderness of Picasso’s complete connection with this attractive, fertile young woman, forty years his junior—moreover a talented and knowledgeable artist herself—radiate from his portrait of Françoise. In contrast to the split, three-quarter views and dueling profiles that he often devised in his portraiture, Picasso—especially during these early years of their relationship—delighted in gazing upon Françoise straight-on, eye-to-eye, face-to-face. Her visage becomes the radiant sun, the luminous moon, the ovary of a springtime flower—the latter just as he famously first portrayed her in May 1946, as La femme fleur (Zervos, vol. 14, no. 167).
After more than two years, floral leaf forms are still in evidence. They also relate to the large, ovoid sleeves of a Polish coat Picasso gave Françoise in late 1948, in which he attired her for the series of lithographs Femme au fauteuil, November-December 1948 (Rau, nos. 374-403). The circular, pod-like shapes in Françoise’s hair and on her neck are a reminder of the cherries Picasso had given her when they first met in a restaurant during the war, in May 1943. The final, crowning touch is Picasso’s gift—real or imagined—of a small, jaunty, feathered hat. Such adornment is unusual and infrequent in portraits of Francoise, who liked to go about bare-headed. Picasso, moreover, loved her thick mane of hair, worn free and loose in the post-war manner. Having painted her au chapeau, Picasso initiated Françoise into the company of her predecessors, Marie-Thérèse Walter and Dora Maar, each of whom he signified with her own distinctive variety of headwear.