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Berman Museum Honors French Artist Françoise Gilot on her 99th Birthday

The work and legacy of Gilot—turning 99 years old this month—is being celebrated by the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art, which houses one of the largest public collections of her work.

The museum is currently presenting Françoise Gilot: Her Journey Through Portraiture, an exhibition of her works on paper drawn from the Berman’s permanent collection. Although the museum is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual gallery is on view online at ursinus.edu/berman.

“Gilot’s language and vocabulary is one of modernism,” said Deborah Barkun, creative director of the Berman Museum. “She plays and experiments with unnatural form and color, particularly with the potential to evoke emotional responses in a viewer.”

The installation explores Gilot’s interest in capturing the artistic, literary, familial, and political personalities of history, using a bold, linear approach. Her skill in a variety of media includes India ink, oil pastels, and charcoal, along with examples of her mastery in color lithography.

The Berman Museum houses 267 pieces by Gilot, including the most comprehensive collection of lithographs and etching in the world, with the exception of the artist’s holdings. Philip and Muriel Berman collected Gilot’s work and were personal friends of the artist.

“As a woman who was part of the School of Paris, she held her own ground,” said Lisa Tremper Hanover, interim director of operations for the Berman Museum, referring to the French and émigré artists who worked in Paris in the first half of the 20th century. “The Bermans started acquiring her work, but also developed a long, deep friendship that really was serendipitous.”

The Berman collection is very personal, too, as it contains self-portraits and compositions focused on Pablo Picasso (with whom she had a relationship) and her children. The collection spans 70 years of Gilot’s artistic career.

Under Hanover, the Berman Museum mounted the first retrospective and comprehensive exhibition of Gilot’s lithographs and etchings in 1995, accompanied by the catalogue raisonné Stone Echoes: Original Prints by Françoise Gilot, and mounted four subsequent exhibitions for Gilot, including a focus on her floating paintings and monotypes; an intimate installation of work executed between 1940 and 1950; and a major exhibition of over 60 paintings which traveled to other institutions in 2012. She received an honorary doctoral degree in fine arts from Ursinus in September 2001.

The Berman is planning a week-long celebration of Gilot aligned with other institutions that hold her work.