French painter who wrote about her relationship with the artist Pablo Picasso in a bestselling book
In 1943 the artist Françoise Gilot, who has died aged 101, accompanied her teacher, the surrealist painter Endre Rozsda, to the Gare de l’Est in Paris. Rozsda was Jewish and Hungarian; the occupying Germans had begun rounding up foreign Jewish people, and he was leaving for the apparent safety of Budapest. As his train steamed out of the station, the 21-year-old Gilot wailed: “But what am I to do?” Her teacher, laughing, shouted: “Don’t worry! Who knows? Three months from now, you may meet Picasso!”
Seven decades later Gilot was to recall those words as both prophecy and curse. Two months after Rozsda’s departure she was having dinner at Le Catalan, a Paris restaurant patronised by Left Bank artists. Halfway through the meal a short, bull-necked man approached her table proffering a bowl of cherries: it was Pablo Picasso. Captivated by the fine-boned Gilot, Picasso, 40 years her senior, invited her to his studio in the Rue des Grands Augustins. By the end of the summer they were lovers.