Les Femmes d’Alger (“Women of Algiers”) is a series of 15 paintings and numerous drawings by the Spanish cubist artist Pablo Picasso. The series, created in 1954–1955, was inspired by Eugène Delacroix’s 1834 painting The Women of Algiers in their Apartment. The series is one of several painted by Picasso in tribute to artists that he admired.
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More than 120 years after French Romantic Eugène Delacroix completed his painting Women of Algiers in their Apartment, Picasso became more than a little obsessed with it. In the winter of 1954, the Spanish artist began the first of 15 oil paintings and hundreds of sketches that would make up his Women of Algiers, Versions A through O. The last was completed on Valentine’s Day 1955.
- Version A and Version B were completed on the same day.
On December 13, 1954, Picasso began his two-month blitz of Women of Algiers with these two paintings. The first featured vibrant colors, while the second favored a monochrome palette per the grisaille method.
- It’s versions were improvised.
Art dealer and Picasso promoter Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler later recounted a memory of their creation, saying, “Picasso had been telling me that he always thought about the following day’s picture in the Femmes d’Algerseries and wondered what it would be like. He repeated: ‘You see, it’s not time regained, but time for discovery.'”
- Picasso feared no one would like Version K.
This Women of Algiers entry combined grisaille and Cubism. But as Picasso had co-founded the avant-garde movement nearly 50 years before, he fretted to Kahnweiler, “My feeling is that nobody will like it any more.”
- Version M was painted the same day Picasso lost his wife.
Russian ballerina Olga Picasso, née Khokhlova, lovingly captured in Portrait d’Olga dans un fauteuil (Olga in an Armchair), passed away of cancer on February 11, 1955. Though still legally married, the pair had been estranged for 20 years because of his philandering.
- Version O broke the record for most expensive artwork to be sold at auction.
On May 12, 2015, Version O sold at Christie’s in New York for $179 million. Not only did this beat the predicted sale price by nearly $40 million, it also blew past the previous record holder, Francis Bacon’s triptych Three Studies of Lucian Freud, which went for $142.4 million in November 2013.