Artists can be a temperamental sort. Even among the painfully reclusive, an artist requires some serious confidence—a belief that their truth is worthy of presenting to the world, and the world in turn deserving to receive that truth. Sometimes (though hardly always and never inevitably), this ego can manifest itself in the artist being what some might call an asshole. As an excerpt brought up on Twitter yesterday by Slate’s Ruth Graham reminds us, the great Pablo Picasso was certainly no exception. (Despite, of course, what The Modern Lovers might have to say on the subject.)
The line in question comes from the artist Françoise Gilot, famously one of Picasso’s muses, in her recently reissued 1964 memoir with Carlton Lake, Life With Picasso. Gilot recounts Picasso’s response to her leaving him, an equally vicious and pathetic attempt to big-time her as she walked out the door.
Even if you think people like you, it will only be a kind of curiosity they will have about a person whose life has touched mine so intimately. And you’ll be left with only the taste of ashes in your mouth. For you, reality is finished; it ends right here. If you attempt to take a step outside my reality—which has become yours, inasmuch as I found you when you were young and unformed and I burned everything around you—you’re headed straight for the desert.
Life, unsurprisingly, did not end for Gilot, given that she was 40 years younger than Picasso. She grew into a notable painter in her own right, and, at the age of 97, is still working to this day.
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When Life With Picasso was published, Picasso went to great lengths to prevent its publication, throwing the weight of both his lawyers and his friends in the art community behind him. When his legal efforts failed to stop the book, Picasso permanently cut off contact from the two children they had together, Claude and Paloma. Speaking with The New York Times Style Magazine’s Thessaly La Force last month, Gilot said she has no regrets, neither about how her relationship with Picasso ended, nor her decision to share her own truth with the world.
TLF: I agree. But, there’s something he says to you when you are parting ways, where he says essentially that you’re indebted to him. That life will never be as good without him. Do you want to say something for the record in response to that? You seem to have lived a great life after him.
FG: No. I knew. We have only one life. You have to act your own deeds and your own life, either as a positive or a negative. It’s what it is.
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