Surviving Picasso (1996)






Director:      James Ivory

Starring:     Anthony Hopkins (Pablo Picasso),  Natascha McElhone (Franoise Gilot),  Julianne Moore (Dora Maar),  Joss Ackland (Henri Matisse),  Dennis Boutsikaris (Kootz),  Peter Eyre (Sabartes),  Peter Gerety (Marcel),  Susannah Harker (Marie-Thrse),  Jane Lapotaire (Olga Picasso),  Joseph Maher (Kahnweiler),  Bob Peck (Franoise's Father),  Diane Venora (Jacqueline),  Dominic West (Paulo Picasso).  Joan Plowright (Franoise's Grandmother), Laura Aikman (Maya). 

one of the mistresses of Pablo Picasso that stayed with him for 10 years


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

1943. The German occupation of Paris. Pablo Picasso shows a German officer and a German enlisted man down to show them some of the paintings he owns. They make a note of what he owns.

Picasso goes to a restaurant with Dora Maar. There he meets two young ladies who say they are painters. One of the ladies is Franoise Gilot and the other is Genevive. Dora watches Picasso and says to the others at the table that he is going through his usual routine. He will invite them to see his studio and sure enough thats just what he does.

The next day the two young ladies comes to his studio. Pablo is with others reading aloud a play. When he sees the two young women he goes to greet them. He starts his tour and asks the two painters who is their teacher. Franoise says she doesnt have a teacher, but she is a painter. Genevive is visiting Franoise. Picasso tells Franoise to come back for a visit, but only if she likes him personally. Genevive tells her friend that she is being naive about what Picasso really wants from her.

Franoise waits several weeks before going back to see Picasso. She has heard that a life touched by Picasso is never the same and she doesnt want herself to be overwhelmed by him. Picasso is happy to see her. He notices her hair is all wet from the rain and takes her into the bathroom to dry her hair. Soon enough he kisses Franoise and she kisses him. Picasso is curious why she is not angry about his trying to take advantage of her. She just says that she doesnt feel insulted by his actions. Picasso takes her to see his etchings.

Paris is liberated from the Nazis, August 26, 1944. Pablo has his picture taken with a bunch of

American soldiers holding Picasso on their shoulders.

Franoise is thinking about stopping her studies to pursue painting full-time. She is a bit afraid of what his father will say. He tried to bring her up as tough and fearless, but now shes old enough to have her own ideas. This might be a problem for if opposed her father becomes wild and completely irrational.

Franoise blurts out her plans all at once to her father. Dad says she must be mad. She is not going on to law school because its not to her liking. Her father tells her he will have her committed. Franoise rushes over to her grandmothers house. Grandmother isnt there right now, so she waits for her. Dad follows Franoise and starts slapping her around shouting that "No one says no to me!" He is bleeding from the mouth. When grandmother comes in, dad says Franoise did it to herself. Franoise says her father did lit and grandmothers says she believes Franoise. Grandmother tells her son that he is to be ashamed of himself and to leave her house immediately. Dad says that grandmother can have Franoise, because he is finished with both of them. He leaves.

Franoise comes to see Picasso. Picassos aide tells her that she should leave for her own sake, but Franoise just ignores the advice. He is with his oldest art dealer, Kahnweiler. He takes her to another room and asks her if she would like to stay here? She says it wouldnt bother her to stay in and paint all day, but he would be loosing some of his freedom and Franoise says he would not like that. Picasso takes her to his bedroom. He is straightening out the room with his back to Franoise. She slips out of her dress and stands there completely nude. Picasso is a bit shocked, but happy at the same time.

Picasso and Franoise are going to visit her grandmother. Franoise tells him to say nothing to her about her moving in with Picasso soon. She stays overnight with her grandmother, who tells her that Picasso is a great womanizer and a destroyer of women. Franoise says she would never let any man destroy her. Grandmother reluctantly agrees, but warns her that she shouldnt waste her young years with the famous painter.

Picasso tells Franoise that he loves her more and more each day and that she means everything to him. He writes a letter to Marie-ThrPse Walter saying he is leaving her. In 1927 Picasso began a secret affair with the 17 year old Marie-ThrPse Walter. Together they had a daughter, Maya. Pablo was still married to Olga, who he married in 1918.

As narrator, Franoise says that Marie-ThrPse was very simple and Picasso probably got bored with her. Dora Maar became his next flame until he wore her out and turned her into "a weeping woman with bulging eyes and swollen nostrils and lashes that had become teardrops."

Dora Maar comes in to see Picasso and tells him he is morally corrupt and that he has corrupted her too. She seems a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Franoise tells Picasso that he should be helping Dora rather than hurting her more. He is taking Franoise with him to see Dora. Franoise says she feels badly for the woman and doesnt want to go see her. Picasso gets her laughing and she goes with him. Dora shows Franoise her paintings. Picasso tells Dora he has come so in an attempt to make Franoise come and live with him, but because of Dora she wont. He wants Franoise to see that there is no love left between him and Dora. Dora agrees with that but she is still very bitter toward Picasso and it shows. She says Picasso never loves anybody but himself.

Picasso, Franoise and Dora to out to eat together. Picasso tells Dora that he is going to take Franoise on a little vacation using her house that Pablo gave to her. Dora tells Franoise to watch out for the scorpions.

Picasso and Franoise are now vacationing in Doras house. As narrator, she complains that he loved to be in groups of all men. On Bastille Day the men of the town take off their shirts are parade through the narrow streets. Pablo participates in the parade and blows on a trumpet to make more noise. She speaks of his many affairs.

Marie-ThrPse writes Picasso a loving letter every day. She hates the scorpions that seem to be everywhere. One day she sneaks out and leaves Picasso behind. She runs down the street, but Pablo comes after her in his car. He uses force to get her into the car.

Pablo takes her into a church and has her repeat that she love Picasso. Then he asks her why she ran away? She says hes not the easiest man to live with. They kiss.

Back home, there is a room full of people waiting to talk to Picasso. Franoise keeps urging him to get up and out of bed until he does so. He dresses and comes out to see some of the people waiting for him. Mr. Kootz of New York wants to buy nine of his paintings. Picasso tells him to come back tomorrow, even though he knows the man is overdue back in New York.

Franoise gives birth to a baby boy and Picasso seems very pleased. As narrator Franoise says every Sunday he would go to see "his other family Marie-ThrPse and Maya".

Picasso takes his "assorted families" with him down for some sea air. Franoise tells Picasso to have Maya and her mother come visit them, because their son Claude should meet his half-sister. So his other family comes to their house. Marie-ThrPse tells Franoise that Franoise will never be able to replace her that she will always be first with Picasso.

As narrator, Franoise says that Picasso felt that she should have fought for him with Marie-ThrPse like Marie-ThrPse fought with Dora Maar. Picasso told Marie-ThrPse and Dora that they would have to sort it out amongst themselves, so Marie-ThrPse pushes Dora out of room where Picasso is painting his famous painting Guernica. Dora comes back in and puts up a good fight as Marie-ThrPse tries to push her out of the room again.

One day Olga Picasso shows up at the scrap metal yard to laugh at Pablo collecting "garbage". Franoise is there and is shocked to learn that the woman is his wife Olga. Olga asks who is this woman with him? Franoise says nothing to her.

As narrator, Franoise says that Picasso met Olga back in 1917 when she was a dancer with Sergei Diaghilev's troupe. Her father was a general in the Russian army. They married in 1918 and their son Paolo was born in 1921, the same year Franoise was born. Paolo loved to ride his motorcycle.

One day the commissioner of police came to complain to Pablo about his sons bad behavior. When Paolo comes in, Picasso says both he and Franoise are guilty and starts throwing books at them.

As narrator, Franoise says that overtime he came to think of her as a "prematurely aged and shrewish wife".

Olga follows Franoise and her grandmother down the street shouting that she is Pabolos wife. Grandmother helps Franoise and the baby get inside the house by running interference with Olga. Instead of being nasty to Olga, grandmother is very kind and says: "Oh, my dear, how your husband has made you suffer." Olga cries as grandmother let her do it on her shoulder.

At the beach Franoise tells Pablo that she is going to have another baby. He is very happy about it.

As narrator, Franoise says that in the years she was with Picasso she never asked him for any money and he never gave her any money. Grandmother has to give her money to keep her and Claude going.

Franoise made some money by selling her paintings. Kahnweiler even offered her a show to display her work, but Pablo tells her the surest road to poverty is through Kahnweiler.

Picassos sales in America have fallen off badly, since he joined the Communist party. He attends a communist function in Poland. The Polish communist dont like his art, but they do love to use him for purposes of promoting their causes.

Picasso told Franoise that he would be back in three days and its been three weeks now. She tells an acquaintance that Pablo doesnt like her to have her own friends. When Picasso does arrive she knocks of his Russian-type hat and slaps him across the face. Thank goodness for him that he did buy her something in Poland: a nice coat.

Franoise has a baby girl, who they name Paloma. Picasso loved being with the children, but only for short periods.

The only male person Picassso would treat royally was the painter Henri Matisse. Henri flirts a bit with Franoise.

On the way home the chauffeur driving in Picassos car and Paolo on his motorcycle fool around on the road and the chauffeur loses control and rams the car into a tree. When they tell Picasso, he fires the chauffeur for being drunk once again. Franoise begs for Picasso to reconsider, but the man is very determined. The chauffeur had been with Picasso for 25 years.

One night Franoise sees Picasso making love to one of his pottery students. She cries, but says nothing. The next evening he tells Franoise: "I go where I want; I see who I want; yes, and I sleep with who I want."

Franoise knows for sure he is having an affair with Jacqueline because her face started to appear in his paintings. Paolo was the chauffeur now and he drives Picasso and Jacqueline around wherever they want to go. This makes Franoise angry.

At home Franoise gets a call from her father saying hat her grandmother has had a stroke and is paralyzed. She wants to go to Paris, but is afraid that Pablo will be mad at her. Pierre tells her he will drive her to the train.

Paris. Franoise and the children arrive at the railway station. She sees her father and he immediately tells her: "She died last night."Franoise is stunned by this news.

Franoise goes through her grandmothers things. She calls many of the people listed in grandmothers address book and telephones them, but they are either dead or no longer at the written address.

Genevive shows up saying Pierre telegramed her that Franoise might need her. Franoise is happy to see her. Franoise and Genevive see Pablo through a restaurant window and he is busying laughing and hugging and kissing Jacqueline.

Picasso at home tells Franoise that she came to Paris against his explicit orders. She tells Picasso that her grandmother died and that she wants to stay here in Paris with her two children and without Picasso. He tells her she must stay because he needs her, but she says she knows he doesnt need her.

Franoise talks with the butler and asks him why doesnt leave Picasso and work elsewhere since Picasso pays him very little and doesnt keep his word to him. He just says: "I stay." And this is said despite the fact that he knows that he is badly treated.

Picasso, in front of Franoise, tells his art dealer that Franoise is leaving him.

Franoise talks with Dora Maar in a restaurant.

Its the day that Franoise is leaving Picasso. He cries and tells her he doesnt want her to leave. She asks Paolo to come in. He cries: "Why did you leave me alone with this woman? Look whats shes done to me." He tells Franoise to get out and he never wants to see her again.

Paolo comes to Franoise and tells her Pablo wants her and the children to come with them to their vacation spot. Franoise is determined to go to Paris. Picasso tells her: "No one leaves Picasso." She tells him that he doesnt know anything about her.

Franoise is swamped by reporters who want to know what happened.

She takes her children to see their father. Jacqueline talks to her and Franoise warns her about Picasso.

Picasso is still bitter about her leaving him. Jacqueline listens in on their conversation. Franoise is amused that Jaqueline calls him "monsignor". Picasso is being honored at a bull fight and he wants Franoise to lead the parade on a trained horse. She does perform it.

Franoise says this was her homage to Picasso. She is grateful for what he did for her and her two children. And shes grateful that he even made her stronger.



Picasso was quite the womanizer, leaving many a broken heart in his wake.  This is the story of a woman who was a lover to Picasso for some ten years and who had two children by the famous artist and yet survived the experience and actually became stronger for it.  And, I must say,  it felt good to see the ego-maniac Picasso get his come-uppance for once. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


1881 (October 25)  -- birth of Pablo Ruiz Picasso in Malaga, Spain.    His father was a painter and a professor of art.

In his childhood, he attended many art schools.  When he was older he went to the Academia de San Fernando in Madrid, but did not even last a full year there. 

In Barcelona, he became good friends with a fellow painter, Jaime Sabarts, who for many years, was Picasso's personal secretary.

He moved to Paris, France.  In Paris he was part of an artistic circle with many famous men and women, including Modigliani (see Modigliani for additional information.)

1901-1904  --  his Blue Period with blue-tinted paintings. 

1905-1907  --  his Rose Period with many orange and pink colors.  he had a long term relationship with Fernande Olivier, who appeared in many of the Rose period paintings.

1908-1909  --  African-influenced Period

1909-1912  --  Analytic Cubism Period

Picasso left Olivier for Marcelle Humbert (Eva).  The artist included declarations of  love for the woman in many Cubist works. Humbert died of cancer

1912-1919  --  Synthetic Cubism Period

World War I  --  Picasso did not fight for the Allies against the Germans.  He stayed neutral.

1918  --  Picasso married Olga Khoklova, a ballerina with Sergei Diaghilev's troupe. 

1920s  --  Olga introduced Picasso to high society life in Paris.  And yet this also caused a great deal of friction in the relationship, because Picasso was more bohemian than aristocrat.  The two had a son, Paulo, who was a near-do-well and later his father's chauffeur.

1927 --  Picasso began a secret affair with 17 year old Marie-ThrPse Walter.  Olga and Picasso separated, but remained married until Olga's death in 1955.  Together Ms. Walter and Picasso had a daughter, Maia. 

He did not return to fight in the Spanish Civil War.  Rather he stayed neutral again. 

1937  --  painted Guernica about the Fascist bombing of a small village by that name. Picasso's lover, Dora Maar, made an extensive photographic record of the the painting of the piece.

World War II  --  again Picasso remained neutral.  He lived in Paris during the German occupation of that city.  During this time he met a young art student, Franoise Gilot, with whom he started a relationship.  They were together for some ten years and had two children, Claude and Paloma. 

post-WWII era --  Picasso rejoined the French Communist Party.  He attended an international peace conference in Poland.

1950s  --  Picasso began to make new paintings based on the art of the great masters.

1951  --  Picasso had a six-week affair with GeneviPve Laporte.

1953  --  Franoise left Picasso because of abuse and infidelities.  This was very hard on Picasso.  He was now in his 70's and upset that he was no longer such an attraction for young women.

1961  --  Picasso married Jacqueline Roque, who worked at the Madoura Pottery, where Picasso made ceramics. The two remained together for the rest of Picasso's life.

 The marriage was part of a complex plan of Picasso's to take revenge on Franoise Gilot, the woman who left him in 1953.  Gilot wanted to legitimize her two children.  Picasso agreed that if she would divorce her husband, Luc Simon, he would marry her.  After Gilot divorced her husband Picasso married Roque.

1967  -- unveiling of a Picasso sculpture in downtown Chicago. 

1968-1971  --  Picasso did many paintings in what later was known as neo-expressionism.  

1973 (April 8)  --  Pablo Picasso died.


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