Claude Ruiz Picasso, Pablo Picasso’s youngest son, has died at the age of 76.
As the long-term manager of his father’s estate, Claude was the holder of the Picasso copyright. He was also instrumental in organising Picasso Celebration 1973-2023, a compendium of 50 exhibitions of Picasso’s work, shown in cultural institutions across Europe and the US over the course of 2023 to mark 50 years since Pablo Picasso’s death.
Claude handed over the management of the estate in July of this year to Paloma Ruiz Picasso, his younger sister. He was originally appointed, by a court, as the administrator of the Picasso estate in 1989.
Claude's relationship with his father ranged from at times strained to estranged. In 1970, when he was 22, and three years before his father’s death, Claude launched a legal battle in order to be recognised as his father’s legitimate son and legal heir. Claude and Paloma eventually won a four-year battle and became the official heirs of the Picasso estate in 1974, a year after their father died (without leaving a will).
The estate remains one of the most valuable collections in the art world, numbering around 45,000 pieces. At the time of Pablo Picasso’s death in 1973, the estate was estimated to be worth £650m.
In the commercial art world, Pablo’s art remains frequently subject to forgery, fake usages and criminal trading. In the copyright and trademark sectors, the Picasso estate has often set legal precedents in terms of its willingness to pursue legal action against counterfeit, illegal reproduction and forgery cases in order to protect the artist’s legacy.
Claude was the son of Pablo and the French painter Françoise Gilot, who also died in June of this year at the age of 101.
Within the mythology of Pablo Picasso’s life, Gilot is often referred to as the only woman that left him. Pablo attempted to legally stop Gilot, 40 years his junior, from publishing a memoir of her life which detailed her experience of being in a relationship with him, including testimonies of abuse, including an occasion when he held a lit cigarette against her cheek. The book was eventually published in 1964, and is titled Life with Picasso. Pablo severed contact with both Claude and Paloma after the publication of the book, and never contacted them again.
Before his appointment as the manager of the Picasso estate, Claude was an artist in his own right. Living in New York, US, he worked briefly as an assistant to the photographer Richard Avedon, before seeing his own photographs published in fashion magazines including Vogue and Time Life.
Claude’s stewardship of the estate was often animated by private conflicts with Pablo’s second wife Jacqueline Roque and Claude’s half-sibling Maya Widmaier-Picasso (the daughter of the French model Marie-Thérèse Walter), who at times fought for a slice of Pablo’s legacy in feuds that sometimes involved very public barbs. Takings from the estate are now split between all of Pablo’s descendants.
Claude’s death, in Geneva, Switzerland, was confirmed by his lawyer on Thursday 24 August, in a statement to Agence France-Presse. He did not give the cause of death.
Claude Riuz Picasso is survived by his wife, Sylvie Vautier, and two children. The cause of his death is unknown.