In 1928 and 1930 she traveled to Africa, visiting Morocco. She was fascinated by the landscapes of northern Africa and painted the Atlas mountains, as well as Arab women and Africans in ethnic clothing.
Zinaida Serebriakova had the opportunity to visit Morocco several times in her life. Her first visit was in 1928, under the aegis of the Belgian baron de Brouwer who owned several plantations in that country. He had seen her work at that year’s International Exhibition in Brussels, and commissioned her to do portraits of his family, and encouraged her to travel to Morocco. For the most part, she appears to have stayed in Marrakech, although she did take trips to Fez and other parts.
She was endlessly fascinated with Morocco. In one of her letters, she wrote: “I am extremely amazed at all this. At the costumes of various colors and all races of men mingled here – negroes, Arabs, Mongols, Jews (so biblical!). I am so dazed from the novelty of impressions that I cannot decide what and how to draw.“
Admittedly, the commissions weren’t lucrative enough, as most of the money went to pay Zinaida’s models. ‘As soon as you sit to draw the women walk away – Arabs don’t wish to be drawn, so they immediately close up their shops or charge up to 10 or 20 francs for tea an hour!’ she wrote despairingly. She did, however, return to Paris with a treasure-trove of artworks, comprising still lifes, portraits and cityscapes, much to the delight and admiration of the Parisians. To this day in Marrakech one finds the streamlined minarets and green domes and colourful water-carriers and the pink and white cubes of Arab houses, none of which escaped the sharp eye of Serebriakova.