20 Art Works Showing Picasso's Development of his Women of Algiers in their Apartment (Les femmes d'Alger) Series

Women of Algiers in their Apartment (French: Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement) is an 1834 oil on canvas painting by Eugène Delacroix (Four years after the French conquest of Algeria). It is located in the Louvre, Paris, France. The painting was first displayed at the Salon, where it was universally admired. King Louis Philippe bought it and presented it to the Musée du Luxembourg, which at that time was a museum for contemporary art. After the death of the artist in 1874 the painting was moved to the Louvre, where it is held today.

Picasso fascinated by Delacroix's "Les femmes d’Alger", painted a series of fifteen variations on Delacroix's work. The individual canvases are designated as versions A through O. This was the first extended series that Picasso created after a renowned painting by a past master. 

Odalisque with Raised Arms – Henri Matisse

Picasso conceived the series as an elegy to his friend and great artistic rival, Henri Matisse. Matisse had died in November 1954, five weeks before Picasso began the series. Matisse viewed Delacroix as his immediate forebear in terms of colour and Orientalist subject matter.  Picasso stated, “When Matisse died, he left his odalisques to me as a legacy.”

Matisse, Seated Odalisque

Odalisque in Red Culottes - Henri Matisse

Odalisques Henri Matisse

Les femmes d'Alger are Picasso's greatest achievement in the decades following the end of the Second World War. They represent his perception of an historical genre, for which his treatment is both respectful and playful. 

The impact of the entire group is greater than the sum of its parts, while each of the individual canvases is varied and uniquely characterful. Some are as fine as Picasso ever painted. Picasso altered his approach between paintings steeped in color, and those rendered en grisaille. 

Picasso, Women of Algiers, (Version A)

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d'Alger "B"

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d'Alger "C"

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d'Alger "D"

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d'Alger (E) (Women of Algiers), 1955; oil on canvas, 18 1/8 in. x 21 5/8 in. (46.04 cm x 54.93 cm)

Picasso, “Les Femmes d'Alger”, (Version F)

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d'Alger "G" 1955

Pablo Picasso Les femmes d'Alger (Version "H") 1955 oil on canvas 51.3 x 63.9 in.

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes dAlger, version I

Oil on canvas
38-1/8 x 51-1/8 in. (96.8 x 129.9 cm)

"Les Femmes d'Alger (J)," by Pablo Picasso, oil on canvas, 45 by 57 1/2 inches, 1955

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d'Alger "K"

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) 
Les femmes d'Alger, version L 

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) 
Les femmes d'Alger, version L 
signed 'Picasso' (lower right); dated '9.2.55.' (on the reverse) 
oil on canvas 
51 x 38¼ in. (130 x 97 cm.) 
Painted in Paris, 9 February 1955

Among the monochrome variations, the Version "L" is truly magisterial. She is not simply an odalisque enjoying her narghile (water-pipe), she is the goddess Astarte enthroned in her temple, but also sphinx-like, inscrutable, a mythic image of sexually powerful and fertile womanhood brought forward from the distant past. 

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d'Alger M

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d'Alger (Women of Algiers), Variation "N" 1955
Oil on canvas
45 x 57 5/8 

Pablo Picasso, Les femmes d’Alger (Version "O"), 1955. Oil on canvas.

“Les femmes d’Alger, (Version “O”) is the culmination of Picasso's project. With its packed composition, play on cubism and perspective, its violent colors, and its brilliant synthesis of Picasso’s lifelong obsessions, it is a milestone in Picasso’s oeuvre and one of his most famous masterpieces.

“To me there is no past or future in my art. If a work of art cannot live always in the present it must not be considered at all. The art of the Greeks, of the Egyptians, of the great painters who lived in other times, is not an art of the past; perhaps it is more alive today than it ever was...”                                                                                       — Pablo Picasso, 1923

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