Baya Mahieddine: An Exploration of Color and Nature
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Qatar National Library, in partnership with Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, has organized an exhibition of works of Baya Mahieddine. The exhibition showcases a selection of 18 works that were drawn from Arab Museum of Modern Art, Qatar National Library, and private collections in Doha.

Baya Mahieddine or Fatima Haddad before her marriage, is considered to be one of the most important Algerian artists of her time. Her artistic career, which started in the post-World War II period, stretched across nearly six decades and was marked by the Algerian War of Independence, and the Algerian Civil War.

Baya, Vase aux pampres, 1967, gouache on paper, 100 x 150 cm, © Photo: Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, © Othmane Mahieddine, © CNAP

Mahieddine, who preferred to call herself “Baya”, was born in 1931 and died in 1998. Her works are mainly paintings, but she did pottery as well. Critics have classified her paintings as being modern, surrealist, primitive or naïve, but she never identified herself as belonging to a particular genre, preferring to let her unusual images of female figures and flora and fauna speak for themselves.

Baya’s life wasn’t easy from the beginning: she became an orphan at the age of five and was raised by her grandmother. Fatima was unable to attend school and started to work as a servant for a French woman named Marguerite Camina, who later became her adoptive mother. Camina noticed the young girl’s talent and encouraged her to develop her craft.

Baya, Untitled, 1966, gouache on paper, 100 x 150 cm, © Photo: Musée du quai Branly-Jacques Chirac, © Othmane Mahieddine, © CNAP

Baya’s works are unique: instead of following Western trends of art that were being taught at that time, Baya created from her own imagination and experience of her life. She was largely self-taught, but her bright colours, boldly shapes and flowing lines were born from her own complex cultural inheritance – Algerian, Arab, Islamic and French. Baya mostly painted the idyllic feminine figures, flowers and animals. Men are excluded from her art – it’s a feminine world.

Baya had her first exhibition in Paris at the age of 16. Picasso noticed her natural talent and invited her to work with him in 1948. One can easily notice the young artist’s influence on Picasso. Critics think that Picasso’s Women of Algeria series were inspired by Baya, although it was painted after their time spent working together.

Baya, Untitled, 1967, gouache on paper, 100 x 150 cm, © Photo: Yves Chenot, © Othmane Mahieddine, © CNAP

“Perhaps most importantly, it was a 1947 exhibition in Paris where she captured the attention of Matisse and in particular Pablo Picasso, whom she worked with for several months. The reciprocity of this artistic relationship left a huge imprint on both artists. Picasso nurtured Baya’s aesthetic – particularly her use of colour and line, while Baya’s cultural vitality served as creative lifeblood for Picasso”, states the description of one of her works on Sotheby’s.

“Baya is an artist without pretence.  Her works are true to her life and while she has borrowed from varied experiences and artistic styles, she has developed a unique aesthetic – the pursuit of light with colourful lightness”, says Sotheby’s webpage.

The opening of the exhibition is on 30.11.2022 at 02:00 PM. The works will be on display in Qatar National Library until 30.03.2023 (03:00 PM). Visitors are able to see the collection during the Library’s opening hours.

To get more information, please visit the official webpage of the exhibition.

You might also be interested in visiting the exhibition “Fahrelnissa and the Institutes: Towards a Sky”.