Francine Scialom Greenblatt was born in Cairo in 1951, grew up in South Africa and now lives in London. She’s been painting for 50 years and has exhibited at more than 100 prestigious art shows, galleries and public spaces all over the world. At the age of 70, she is still painting and exhibiting.
Lockdown didn’t stop her – she has launched a new virtual gallery space and does regular Insta lives. Francine is best known for her paintings of the eroticised figure, but living in Egypt during the Suez Canal crisis, her Jewish upbringing, politics,
religion, breaking taboos and having to adapt to difffferent cultures as the family moved to other countries, have all played pivotal roles in her work. With a Spanish mother, an Italian father (Scialom is an Italian spelling of ‘shalom’) and a childhood spent in many countries, Francine recognises the importance of language as a key to engage in the world and she is multilingual.
“My father was generous and compassionate, my mother was eccentric and creative, and both encouraged me to be independent and courageous in formulating personal ideas,” says Francine. “At the age of eight, I developed jaundice and I was bedridden for a couple of weeks. To occupy me, my Mum gave me something to ‘copy’. It was an Alitalia calendar with wonderful reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci’s works. She asked if I’d traced the drawing of the Mona Lisa... from then on, she encouraged me even further.”
Lockdown and the loss of her mother just before it brought a new element to her work. “I found myself looking at and being overwhelmed by the skies on my walks. I felt grateful to be alive and I felt my mum’s aura all around me – as if the spirit world and nature came together. It was a challenge to convey all this in a 2D image,” she says. A browse of her ‘In Lockdown’ collection on her new website shows that she managed it rather well.
An intensely private person, lockdown was not too much of a challenge for Francine, but she decided to embrace the new technology and has, as she puts it, become an Instagram Queen, talking regularly to her 1,500 followers from her studio. She is a great orator with a bubbly personality and brings her paintings to life on screen. She also took the opportunity to launch her website, so she can exhibit virtually. “Painting and not exhibiting is like writing and not publishing,” she says. “Showing your work is the fullness of it.”
Francine’s new virtual exhibition, To Love & To Hold, is now live on her virtual gallery. It celebrates painting and the nude by inviting the viewer to enter intimate ideas through a voyeuristic lens.