When the painter Françoise Gilot died on Tuesday at 101 years old, the headlines played up her relationship with Picasso. This, even though she only lived with him for 10 years more than 70 years ago.

Where’s the rest of me?

Gilot’s marriage to Jonas Salk, the virologist credited for the polio vaccine, lasted 25 years until his death. Why wasn’t that relationship headlined? Surely Salk was as important to the world, if not more so.

Here was this artist painting her heart out for nearly a century, even when her sight failed, whose work hangs in museums around the world, and her time with Picasso when she was 21 is her legacy.

Is it any wonder that she had to wait until she was a century old before her work notched a record sale? Her strikingly bold portrait of her daughter “Paloma a la Guitare” sold at Sotheby’s for $1.3 million.

For Gilot, portrait painting was a way to convey mood. Her daughter comes across as serene for the quiet colors that describe her.

But the portrait also conveys excitement owing to the intersecting angular lines in the background. As she has famously said, “Reality must be torn apart in every sense of the word.”

Declaration of independence

If one were to sum Gilot up, I’d go with fiercely independent. On her 100th birthday, she spoke to Ruth La Ferla of the Times about her need to be true to herself:

“As young women, we were taught to keep silent.

We were taught early that taking second place is easier than first. You tell yourself that’s all right, but it’s not all right. It is important that we learn to express ourselves, to say what it is that we like, that we want.”

Not surprisingly, Gilot’s 1961 memoir “Life with Picasso,” which is marked throughout by her need for autonomy, became a feminist classic.

She has the distinction of being the only one of the women in Picasso’s life who left him instead of the other way around.

The mind goes back nearly 20 years ago wen a stash of Picassos went on the auction block - the hoard belonging to one of his lovers who he abandoned and who died at age 89 - the painter, photographer Dora Maar.

Why Maar kept the items - paintings, drawings and sculpture, mostly likenesses of her - is beyond understanding. Picasso acted dreadfully towards her and, in the height of perversity, routinely documented her reaction by portraying her monstrously deformed. Gilot would have none of that.

As Gilot pointed out to the New York Times in 2022, “I see life as a labyrinth. You don’t fight it...You go the other way.” Even so, she acknowledged the influence of Henri Matisse for the color in her work, and Georges Braque for her angular lines.

Noticeably absent from her acknowledgment of artists whose judgment she held dear was Picasso. She told Terry Gross on public radio in 1988 that she learned early in her career never to belong to a group:

“Some are bound to be leaders and want conformity. I want to conform only to my own self ...I couldn’t care less about whether the others are going that route.”

Now that’s a legacy worth noting.