Until the age of 11, Baya was raised in Algeria by her grandmother. Then she was taken in by a French woman named Marguerite Caminat, who assisted in introducing her to artists such as André Breton and Pablo Picasso. Baya is best known for her bold gouache paintings of women in colourful clothes, which often feature animals (or animal-like creatures).

An early work by Baya, Femme au paon (Woman with peacock) (1947) is a gouache painting on paper that depicts a woman clothed in flowery green material with a pattern of flowers and branches. Beside her is a large peacock-like bird with plumage coloured in a similar pattern. It is thought that the patterns featured throughout Baya’s works were inspired by traditional Algerian pottery. This interpretation is supported by the clay-coloured backdrop in this particular work. Unlike later works by Baya, which use bold black outlines to define objects and figures, this work employs the contrasting burnt umber background to frame the subjects. Noticeably smaller than her later works, which became larger after encouragement from friends and patrons, this work suggests an intimacy with the viewer.

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Femme au paon (1947)


Self-taught artist Baya (Mahieddine), born Fatima Haddad, is best known for her colourful work depicting women, animals (or animal-like creatures), vegetation and musical instruments.