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    Françoise Gilot (French, b. 1921)
    La Marionette (Claude and Paloma Picasso with Germaine Brooks), 1955
    Oil on canvas
    46 x 28-1/2 inches (116.8 x 72.4 cm)
    Signed lower left: F. Gilot.
    Titled and dated on the stretcher bar: La Marionette 1955

    Collection of the artist;
    Vincent Mann Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana;
    Acquired by the present owner from the above, February 20, 2010.

    Paris, Galerie Louise Leiris, n.d..;
    New Orleans, Louisiana, Collection Privée: Early Works by Françoise Gilot 1940-1960," February-May, 2010.

    M. Yoakum and D. Vierny, Françoise Gilot: Monograph 1940-2000, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2000, p. 135.

    Famous for her bold, modernist canvases and successful career as a painter in postwar Paris, Françoise Gilot is also renowned for having been the muse and lover of Pablo Picasso. While her story may be inextricably linked to 20th century art's most towering figure, Gilot's remarkable life and vast oeuvre is extremely impressive on its own merits. In a career spanning over seven decades, her distinct artistic language reveals a mastery of modernist concepts, technical skill, and a dual focus on both personal and universal themes. A sort of playful abstraction, Gilot's style lies somewhere between that of Picasso and Henri Matisse, whom she also counted as a close friend and mentor.

    Born in 1921 in a Paris suburb, Gilot evinced an early love for the arts, determining at age five that she would become a painter. She had her first major exhibition in Paris in 1943. That same year, Gilot, then 21, met the 61-year-old Picasso, and the two began a decade-long relationship resulting in the births of two children, Claude and Paloma. During this time, Gilot and Picasso exerted a profound and symbiotic influence on one another's work.

    From 1947 when her first child, Claude, was born, through the mid-'50s, Gilot focused on painting the world around her, which had increasingly become the domestic interior. She began a series of color-filled canvases that depicted her life at home and in the studio, including her children at play and engaged in various activities. Gilot wrote about painting Claude and Paloma, "While they were subjects of my affection, my artist's eye now perceived them from a greater distance and paid more attention to the third dimension. My technique also evolved, leaving behind the heavy mahogany boards in favor of thick textured linen canvas." (F. Gilot, Françoise Gilot, Monograph 1940-2000, Lausanne, 2000, p. 137)

    The present work was painted in 1955, three years after Gilot's first-ever one-woman exhibition was held at Galerie Louise Leiris, and two years after she left her tumultuous relationship with Picasso. In this work, young Paloma, clutching a doll in the foreground, wears a bright red pinafore and Mary Janes, an outfit recognizable from photos taken with her mother in the studio at the time. (Fig. 1). In the background is Claude, focused on his pencil and notepad, along with Germaine Brooks, a young ballet dancer who was one of Gilot's favorite models, pictured in a leotard and pink tights. Germaine plays with a marionette, which, along with several other toys, appears in a number of works from the 1950s. Gilot stated that the toys she depicted were those that "my children love and that I, by contagion, had come to like as well" (Ibid., p. 142). The artist has explained that 1955 and 1956 were the only two years she painted directly from nature, and, indeed, the works from this period offer a window onto the precise objects and visions that populated her daily life.

    This large canvas is also notable in that Gilot kept it in her personal collection for over fifty years. Her mentors such as Henri Matisse had advised her to hold onto some of her finest early works, as they would likely increase in value. In 2010, to celebrate 38 years of representing the artist, Vincent Mann Gallery held an exhibition in New Orleans comprising important early artworks from the period of 1940-1960 that were selected by Françoise from her personal archives. It was then that this masterwork had its first appearance on the market, and was subsequently purchased by the current owner the very night of the opening, at a reception attended by both Gilot and a crowd of admiring collectors and press (Fig. 2).

    Estimate: $150,000 - $250,000.

    Condition Report*: Original, unlined canvas. Uneven varnish. Canvas is a bit slack at upper left and right corners. There are areas of paint separation in more thickly painted passages, including the purple rectangle at center, the white curtain, in Paloma’s face and right arm, and in the white pigment of her blouse and socks. There appears to be a thin vertical line of inpaint 1 inch from the left edge, stretching 30 inches from the bottom, and a few scattered small spots of inpainting, mostly in the background. Painting may benefit from a light cleaning.

    Framed Dimensions 52 X 35 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    6th Friday
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