Françoise Gilot

A remarkable historic exhibition opens at Creative Arts Napier on April 22 featuring prints created by the celebrated French artist Francoise Gilot, a world pioneering printmaker who is now 100 years of age. 

CAN’s main gallery is hosting the largest collection of Gilot’s artwork ever exhibited in the southern hemisphere, with more than 35 of her lithographs, monotypes and illustrated deluxe books on full display.

At 100 years of age, Gilot’s artistic career spans an unparalleled 80 years and her innovative printed works, especially her pioneering experimentation with colour lithography, are a tour-de-force in modern art printmaking. 

Françoise Gilot Aurelia Red Bonnet

The exhibition has been curated using key graphic works to demonstrate Gilot’s progression as a pioneering fine art printmaker and is a unique exploration of the most fundamental elements of human existence – of family, the feminine, nature and creation, cultural diversity, of mythology, the human form and much more. 

Accompanying the exhibition over the period of the show is a series of scholarly lectures by the curator Dr Adrian Ormsby who’s a leading expert on Gilot’s printed works, printmaking workshops conducted by New Zealand’s most talented printmakers, a special pre-exhibition Gilot movie screening at MTG, and creative activities for children and youth. (see below for links)

The two in-person presentations by the Curator, addressing milestones in the life of Gilot, her artistic career and the historical significance of her fine art printmaking will take place in the Main Gallery on both weekends during the exhibition. Attendees will interact at close range with the printed works on display as the Curator highlights key technical and historical points related to each work. 

In addition, printmaking workshops by New Zealand’s talented members of the Print Council of Aotearoa NZ will be available as an educational and creative adjunct to the exhibition. The workshops are designed to be both engaging and a practical instruction on the art of printmaking, especially for young people. Choose from a two-part Waterless Lithography class with local artist of note, Kathy Boyle or Drypoint for Beginners with Lisa Feyen. 

From 1946 to 1949 whilst living with Picasso, Gilot witnessed a critical period of his printmaking at the invitation of Fernand Mourlot (1895-1988) at the Mourlot atelier on Rue Chabrol in Paris. Picasso himself had minimal formal training in printmaking and relied heavily on the talented Mourlot master printers to overcome numerous technical challenges. To her credit, Gilot acknowledged the learning she received by observing Picasso’s printmaking—including his use of the innovative ‘sugar-lift’ technique—and how she integrated this knowledge into her own unique style. 

It should be emphasised that Gilot was an accomplished artist well before her relationship with Picasso. Gilot focused almost entirely on drawing to assimilate her observations of Picasso’s work in order to fully develop her own ideas regarding form. It was the French Modernists, not Picasso, that inspired her most – especially the vibrant use of colour and unique form of Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and the meditative and metaphysical still life of George Braque (1882-1963).

The exhibition runs from 22 April -12 May in collaboration with the Print Council Aotearoa New zealand (PCANZ) and DKH gallery in Melbourne. Showing at the CAN, 16 Byron Street, Napier, there are no entry fees, but a collection box will be available for contributions at the entrance.

Accompanying events:

Floor talks with Dr Adrian Ormsby: Saturday 23 April 11am -12pm and Sunday 1 May 1-2pm

Print Workshops for adults and children. To view and book a workshop:

The film ‘Surviving Picasso’ is showing at MTG on Sunday 24 April 3pm. The film features Anthony Hopkins as Pablo Picasso. His French lover Françoise Gilot is played by Natascha McElhone as Picasso’s muse and the mother of two of his children.


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