Thursday, April 25, 2013


The painting I have chosen is Women of Algiers (Femmes d’ Alger) by Eugène Delacroix. It was painted in 1834 and it is exhibited in the Louvre Museum in Paris at the moment. Women of Algiers is an oil painting on canvas and its dimensions are 180x229cm. At first, the painting was shown at the Salon (the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris), where it was universally admired. King Louis Philippe bought it and presented it to the Museum of Luxembourg, which was a museum for contemporary art at that time. After the death of the artist in 1874 the painting was moved to the Louvre, where it is located now.

Delacroix travelled in 1832 to Algiers. During this trip, he didn’t stop drawing because he was fascinated about Algiers’ exoticism. In his trip, he could visit a harem. He was the first occidental man who could come into one. He was surprised and he made a sketch of the harem. Two years later, in his workshop in Paris he had to recompose the scene to draw the painting.

The painting shows the situation of a harem in Algiers. A harem is a place in a house reserved strictly for women; this place exists mainly in the countries which have Islamic culture. As Delacroix was the first occidental man who could come into a harem, he decided to paint it.

In the painting, we can see four women who are in a relaxed situation. The central figure could be the woman who is sitting more or less in the centre. Next to her, there is another woman who is kneeling, she is holding a hookah, they are smoking hashish or opium and in the right side we can see a black woman who is turning her back to the rest. On the left, we can also see a woman who is resting on a pillow and she has some exotic blankets. Besides, we can see a hookah and an opium bowl. The women are wearing exotic clothes with exotic patterns and colors.

In the background, there is a red door half-open. Near the door we can see a mirror and over the door there is a shelf with vases. We can also see exotic curtains and on the wall we can appreciate the exotic drawings over the tiles.

The painting represents the Algerian concubines in a harem. The purpose of Delacroix was also to show his archetype of the feminine perfection to the rest of the world. The women in the painting symbolize the archetype of feminine perfection. The woman on the left is submerged on darkness, representing mystery and isolation. The black woman is the servant. Her position turning her back to the rest allows the observer to introduce himself into the painting. The opium in the painting is a symbol of prostitution. Delacroix used warm colors to show the people that he was painting an oriental and exotic painting.

Eugène Delacroix was one of the most emblematic painters of Romanticism and had a strong influence on the impressionists. His paintings are famous by his good knowledge of use of the color. There are features of Romanticism on this painting: it’s a very colorful painting and with bright colors and loose brush-strokes. It’s also an exotic painting because it has many exotic elements, such as hookah and the wallpaper which give an exotic tone to this painting.

Delacroix was the only painter in his period that represented the passions of this period, such as the liberal revolutions.

His stay in Algiers was a very good thing for him because he could reflect the Islamic culture very well. His first painting describing the Islamic life was Women of Algiers and later he painted other paintings related with the Islamic culture, such as Jewish Wedding in Morocco (1837), Arab Horses Fighting in a Stable (1860), The Lion Hunt (1856-1861), and Arab Saddling his Horse (1855). These paintings and the Women of Algiers shared an important relation. All are describing the Islamic Culture and the life in Algiers.

Jewish Wedding in Morocco

Arab horses fighting in a stable

This painting, in my opinion, has some importance in art history because it had a big influence for many other painters and for many other styles.

In 1849, Delacroix painted another version of Women of Algiers which is more or less similar to the original version, although the setting is less thorough. Alfred Bruyas bought this version, which is now in the Museum Fabre, Montpellier

This painting was a source of inspiration for many other painters: impressionist painters, such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, fauvist painters, like Henri Matisse due to all the colors that the painting has.

Henri Matisse painted some paintings inspired on Delacroix’s painting. For example, Matisse painted Odalisque with Red Pants inspired on Women of Algiers.

Women of Algiers was also an inspiration for Fernand Léger to paint Three women in 1921.

It was also a big influence for many Picasso’s paintings. He painted a series of fifteen variations on Delacroix's Women of Algiers between 13 December 1954 and 14 February 1955. 

Some examples of their variations of Women of Algiers by Picasso are:


And he painted this version for his wife in 1955:

A curious piece of information for me is that this painting gave name to a book called Femmes d'Alger dans leur appartement (Women of Algiers in their apartment), written by Assia Djebar, an Algerian writer, in 1980. Assia Djebar is a feminist writer and she wrote the book after her inspiration of Delacroix’s painting. The book is formed by short stories about the strength and dignity of Algerian women in the past and in the present and it is also about the situation of women in Algiers and the harem in which they are enclosed.

Women of Algiers is a beautiful and interesting painting. At first, I didn’t like the painting so much because I thought it hadn’t many sense but after doing this project, I love the painting because I have learned many things about Algiers, the harems, the life there and the life of Delacroix too. And I also think that Delacroix is a very good painter, he painted very well. It’s very interesting doing these types of works because you learn so much.

- Hookah-> narguile, cachimba o pipa de agua
-“The archetype of feminine perfection”-> El ideal de la perfección femenina
-Oil on canvas-> Óleo sobre lienzo
- Pattern ->Estampado
- Thorough->elaborado

The sources that I’ve used are:


Monica said...

Great work María. I like it a lot.

Paqui Pérez Fons said...

Hello María,

Remember that the title of the painting has to be written in Italic font.

Your idea of including the glossary is very good. I've discovered many things I didn't know checking your painting: for example, Picasso's series based on this painting and Asia Djebar's book.

You've done a very good work. I'll give you 9.5 points.

See you!

maria said...

Ok, Paqui, I have corrected...See you!!