I knew the artist Francoise Gilot spent her 20s with the perma-famous artist Picasso. I did not know that she later enjoyed the most fabulous and enduring romance with Jonas Salk, the virologist best known for inventing the polio vaccine.
He was a multiple Scorpio – Sun, Ascendant, Mars, and Mercury – with the classic scientist-genius signature of Jupiter conjunct Uranus in Aquarius. Gilot is a Saggo – now nearly 100 and on her 2nd Chiron Return, she still paints every day, first thing in the morning. She paints in her pajamas and slippers and talks in terms of chasing the ‘bird of doubt’ from her shoulder. “Reason is no friend to the artist.”
Reason Is No Friend To The Artist
Imagine if your name was forever yoked with that of your first partner, someone you’d left decades ago and that that person was the only topic most people wanted to discuss with you.
Romantically, the artist Francoise Gilot is forever referred to as “Picasso’s Muse” or “the lover of Picasso.” Yes, she was with him for ten years from the age of 21 and they had two children together. But she left the man who said there were only two types of women – “goddess and doormats” – despite his threats*.
Years later, a successful artist and on the verge of Chiron Return, she met Jonas Salk, who had just completed his Chiron Return. “There was no way to find out who bewitched whom,” she said later. “All I know is that a powerful whirlwind was blowing.”
There Was No Way To Find Out Who Bewitched Whom
Interestingly, both were fulfilled as single people, super-zealously immersed in their work, and valued solitude.
Nonetheless, Salk proposed to her with the pitch that even if “even if we’re not so happy, at least we’ll be like a citadel; we’ll be a fortress for each other.”
Françoise thought about it. Both felt exhausted by the world and sought a refuge. “In that case, let’s try,” she replied. Gilot was 48, an artist, a determined free spirit. Salk was 55, a scientist, averse to conflict. They would live half the year almost 6,000 miles apart. “All our friends on both sides predicted impending doom,” Gilot recalled.
But there was no doom, just a lot of tut-tutting. They were married in 1970 and were happily together – albeit spending half the year apart from one another – until Salk passed in 1995.
Synastry-wise, both have the Moon conjunct their North Nodes, her Venus-Mercury in Scorpio was conjunct his Scorpio stellium and her Saturn was conjunct his Sun. In the month that they met, neither seeking a relationship, Pluto was crossing Francoise Gilot’s Ascendant and Uranus was conjunct Jonas Salk’s Sun.
Affinities sparked during Outer Planet transits always have extra heft and magic to them. But there is something so cool about a Chiron Return romance deliberately negotiated as a ‘fortress and refuge’ for two such ardent individualists.
- “If you attempt to take a step outside my reality—which has become yours, inasmuch as I found you when you were young and unformed and I burned everything around you—you’re headed straight for the desert.” Picasso’s Threat to the young Francoise Gilot.
Francoise Gilot & Jonas Salk – photographer unknown
Steven Kent Johnson – Francoise Gilot’s Studio 2019
Francoise Gilot – Venus