Pablo Picasso Les Femmes d'Alger Version H 24 January 1955

Pablo Picasso
Les Femmes d’Alger (Version H) 24 January 1955

Courtesy Nahmad Collection, Switzerland
© Succession Picasso/DACS 2010

Picasso’s series The Women of Algiers was started within a month of the Nationalist uprising in Algeria in 1954 which lead to the eight-year long Algerian War of Independence.

France’s history and politics in the post-war period was closely tied up with its relationship with its colonies and their bid for independence. In the midst of these events Picasso made the link with Eugène Delacroix’s The Women of Algiers 1834. His dialogue with Delacroix can be traced back to a number of early drawings from 1940 and the famous ‘Louvre’ test of 1946 in which Picasso directly juxtaposed his work with masterpieces in the museum. Picasso would have been drawn to Delacroix’s idea of the authenticity of antiquity in North Africa and to the relationship of Spanish culture to the period of Moorish domination.

The colours of Algeria were a great influence on Delacroix. Picasso explores colour throughout his series of paintings after Delacroix, also producing one monochrome version. Picasso also appreciated the patterning in a tiled interior, which can be seen as a continuation of his concern with handicraft and folk embroideries from Eastern Europe. Picasso’s sympathies remained with those who were deprived of their freedom or subjected to repression and torture.