17. Baya Mahieddine Artist Trailblazer

Baya Mahieddine was an Algerian artist with no formal training. Picasso went to one of her first exhibitions, which influenced his style of painting to what we know today. She had her first exhibition aged 16 years old. In 1953 she stopped painting to be married and have 6 children.

Picasso asked her to work with him. Her natural, spontaneous talent gave Picasso a fresh perspective. She refused to be defined by powerful Western templates describing her work as surrealist.

The Franco-Algerian author Assia Djebar imagined her life as “this forced retreat into tradition, […] this return to the abodes of women who do not go out, who give birth, who wait.” Whether she actually thought this nobody knows. But is it significant that a woman artist stopped painting when you suspect a man might have continued their career.

Even in her own country she wasn’t recognised by the Algerian painting movement dominated by men. The struggle of her life and art demonstrates the times where men dominated women. Huge talent unrecognised by gender.


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