Claude Picasso, son of Pablo Picasso and the longtime administrator of the late Spanish artist’s estate, has died at the age of 76.
Born in 1947, Claude was a photojournalist and once worked as an assistant to photographer Richard Avedon. But his greatest legacy was managing that of his father’s, when he was appointed by the court system to take over the Picasso estate in 1989.
That involved cataloguing the Picasso archive, cracking down on forgeries and unauthorized reproductions of the artist’s work—and, controversially, licensing his father’s name and signature to the Peugeot-Citroen car company in 1999, sparking a lawsuit from older half-sister Maya Widmaier-Picasso, who accused him of disrespecting Picasso by using his name “to sell something so banal as a car.”
But the country of France recognized Claude’s work on behalf of the estate with the nation’s highest honor, the Légion d’Honneur, in 2011.
“[Claude] was a dedicated guardian and interpreter of his father’s legacy, leading the Picasso Administration since its founding and enthusiastically supporting international scholarship and exhibitions,” Larry Gagosian told . He was an extraordinary man and a great friend. Our hearts go out to all of Claude’s family. He will be profoundly missed.”
The year 2023 has seen a spate of Picasso exhibitions marking the 50th anniversary of the artist’s death. Claude, for his part, had expressed concerns in 2018 that there were too many shows trading on his father’s fame, and that the Musée Picasso in Paris was lending works too frequently.
Picasso and Gilot, who also had a daughter, the jewelry designer Paloma Picasso, were together for 10 years but never married. After their contentious split, and the publication of her 1964 memoir, , the artist broke off contact with their children. In order to be recognized as his father’s son and heir, Claude actually filed a lawsuit in 1970, which was decided in his favor—but did not head off a bitter six-year inheritance dispute over the estate, valued at $1.1 billion at the time of Picasso’s death in 1973.
Claude is survived by his wife, Sylvie Vautier, two children, and another half-sister, Gilot’s daughter Aurelia Engel. He also had two older half-siblings on his father’s side, Paul, son of Olga Khokhlova, who died in 1975; and Widmaier-Picasso, daughter of Marie-Therese Walter, who died in 2022.