NEW YORK - Extraordinary artwork created by a woman who has had an extraordinary life. But Françoise Gilot, 99, does not see her life as anything more special than anyone else's.
"How could I think something about it because I lived it," she said, laughing.
She said she has been painting nearly her entire life. She began when she was a toddler.
"Yes, 3 years old or something like that," Gilot said. "It comes even almost before you can speak."
Last month, the French artist's painting Paloma à la Guitare sold for $1.3 million at Sotheby's auction house, seven times more than what was expected — a recognition many in the art world felt was long overdue. But it is not the money that validates Gilot as an artist or a person.
"I don't believe too much in what other people say. My affirmation, whether it's challenged or not, comes from the center, from myself," she said. "Not from somebody else. Even if it's very nice."
This was Sotheby's first sale devoted to just women artists. In the art world, men still reign supreme when it comes to the dollar value of their artwork.
"For a very long time women were not considered eligible, so to speak," Gilot said. "Let's talk about women!"
The painting is of her daughter Paloma, one of two children she had with famed artist Pablo Picasso. She was 21 when they met in 1943. He was 61. She, too, was an artist and recounted her 10 years with him in her 1964 memoir Life with Picasso.
She is the only woman to ever walk away from Picasso and has flourished as a successful artist in her own right. Years later, Gilot married Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed the first successful polio vaccine.
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But she does not dwell on her past. She lives in the moment.
"I evolve all the time. We change all the time," Gilot said. "Nobody stays the same."
"For an artist, I think, work is not work. It's simply an enjoyment of a different kind," she said. "It's mysterious — even for myself. I would say that art is good if it's mysterious."
Gilot added that in art, your own feelings should guide you.
Two of her favorite colors to paint with are red and blue.
Gilot will turn 100 in November and hopes to keep learning and discovering something new every day.
"To try to be natural, to be really yourself — that's the most difficult work," Gilot said. "You should try to be yourself whatever it is."