Paula Rego

1935Lisbon, Portugal | 2022London, Great Britain
Paula Rego — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

© Henry Bourne, Courtesy of the Saatchi Gallery, London © Paula Rego, 2016

— Saatchi Gallery

Portuguese painter.

Paula Rego met her future husband, the artist and critic Victor Willing, at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London, where she studied painting from 1952-1956. She came to David Sylvester’s attention with her painting Under Milk Wood (1954). After staying in Portugal until 1963, she then spent her time between her native country and Great Britain, before permanently settling in London in 1976. In the 1960s, her decisive discovery of Dubuffet’s work had a liberating influence on her own. After simultaneous exhibitions at the Saatchi and Marlborough galleries in London (1994), critics classed her among the second generation of the School of London, alongside Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.
Her painting expresses violent criticism of her country, especially of the Salazarian regime, which dominated Portugal’s national history for forty years (Salazar Vomiting the Homeland, 1960). Other themes appear in her painting, such as conjugal and man-woman relationships (in 1998, she painted Triptych, on the subject of abortion). Predominant themes in her work include the physical and brutal presence of beings; the violence of human relationships, in which children play a major and ambiguous part (fetishism, sadomasochism); a strong sense of mise en scène; and the importance of the animal figure. About her sources of inspiration, she says: “That is what literature is for me: violent, magical stories, in which there is punishment, retribution. Things that relate to the education of children”.

She combines and overlaps memories of popular stories, accounts of Portugal’s history, and tales from her childhood. Benjamin Rabier, Gustave Doré and Francisco de Goya are durable influences on the iconography and narrative construction of her work (A menina com cão, “Girl with dog”, 1986). In terms of technique, she stands out as a truly talented colourist and draughtswoman, favouring crayon, pastel, acrylic or collage over oil paints (Manifesto for a Lost Cause, 1966; Stray Dogs [Dogs of Barcelona], 1965). Proceeding with the themes of childhood and the status of women, she began to create life-size human papier-mâché figures, like the animation of a sort of intimate carnival. In September 2009, a new museum dedicated to her work, the Casa das Histórias Paula Rego (Paula Rego House of Stories), was built by architect Eduardo Souto de Moura in Cascais, near Lisbon.

Scarlett Reliquet

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
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