Artwork Detail

Les femmes d'Alger (Women of Algiers), Variation "N"
Spanish, 1881–1973
Oil on canvas
45 x 57 5/8 "
University purchase, Steinberg Fund, 1960
WU 3898
© Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painted in the postwar period, Pablo Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger employs the revolutionary earlier Cubist pictorial language that turned Picasso into a leader of the avant-garde in the 1910s. The work is the penultimate in a series of fifteen variations the artist executed after two paintings by the French nineteenth-century painter Eugène Delacroix, both titled Les femmes d’Alger dans leur appartement (Women of Algiers in Their Apartment), from 1834 and 1848. Delacroix’s paintings portray three nude or partially dressed women sleeping, smoking, and reclining while a female servant in the background carries a teapot. Picasso’s work recasts the seductive, eroticized female figures of Delacroix’s Orientalist painting in the flattened, angular forms and compact, discontinuous spaces of Cubism. Here Delacroix’s scene of imagined sexual invitation and passive femininity becomes instead one of female self-possession and untenable desire. [Permanent collection label, 2017]