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The 16-Year-Old Algerian Artist Who Influenced Picasso and Matisse


Jane Drinkard: Baya was born Fatma Haddad, in Bordj el-Kiffan, a beachy suburb of the city of Algiers, at the North-Western tip of Africa. Orphaned by age 5, she was adopted as a teenager by Marguerite Camina Benhoura, a French intellectual who noticed Baya’s artistic talent from a young age. In her homes in Algiers and the South of France, Benhoura provided Baya with art materials and access to French and Maghrebi art magnates.
In 1947, when Baya was just 16, she was discovered by Aimé Maeght, an established French art dealer, and André Breton, who included Baya’s works in the Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme at Galerie Maeght in Paris. Almost overnight she caught the attention of Picasso and Matisse, among other prominent artists, for her colorful, spontaneous and “childlike” compositions. “Her work allows us to question so many different histories,” said curator Natasha Boas. “The outsider. The outlier. The woman artist.” More here.

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