Françoise Gilot had a fascination for stylish architecture and a lifelong interest in the sciences. Her interest in building design led her to the Salk Institute in 1969, where Jonas Salk led her on a personal tour of the campus. In 1970, less than a year later, they were married. The marriage of Françoise Gilot and Jonas Salk embodied the very core of Salk's belief that there is a chemistry in the marriage of art and science. The Salk Institute has been the proud and grateful recipient of this belief in many ways but most popularly and importantly, in the contributions Françoise Gilot's art has made to the depth and creative energy at the Salk.
Born in 1921 in Neuilly, near Paris, Gilot abandoned her university studies in international law in the early 1940s to devote herself to painting. In 1943, at age 21, she had her first exhibition. During the 1940s and 1950s she developed strong friendships with the legendary artists of the time, including Matisse, Braque, and Cocteau.
She also began a well-known 11-year partnership with Pablo Picasso, then 40 years her senior, with whom she has two children, Claude and Paloma. Gilot's youngest daughter, Aurelia, was born during Gilot's marriage in the mid-1950s to French artist Luc Simon. By the late 1960s, when she met Jonas Salk, she was an internationally recognized artist and bestselling author.
In the summer of 1958, Gilot embarked on a new series of canvases that represent her first sustained statements of truly personal style and are central to her development as an artist. Deftly composing space-or environment-with color planes rather than linear perspective, Gilot created an organic, structural rhythm, reflecting her concerns for simplicity and tone-color coordination.
In 1970, Gilot married Jonas Salk after mutual friends in La Jolla arranged an introduction. Gilot knew the science of art, and Salk was known for his encouragement of artistic approaches to science. She maintained studios in New York, Paris, and California, and they were a vital international presence in art circles and the scientific community for 25 years. Although Gilot returned to live in New York following Salk's death in 1995, she has graciously continued to serve as Honorary Chair of Symphony at Salk each year since its inauguration in 1996.