b. 1935, Portugal

Paula Rego Biography

Dame Paula Rego is a London-based Portuguese visual artist who is celebrated for her influence on modern figurative painting in Britain and Portugal. Her contemporary paintings and prints convey feminist counter-narratives interlaced with references to Portuguese folk culture and children's stories.

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Born and raised in Portugal, Paula Rego moved to London in the 1950s and studied at the Slade School of Fine Art. During the 1960s she exhibited with the School of London group alongside artists including Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, and David Hockney. Her early collages and large-scale paintings were surreal and abstract, such as the busy, colourful The Firemen of Alijo (1966) and bold A Madrastra (1970).

Paula Rego's later figurative paintings and prints, executed in a distinct magical realist style that combines smooth tones with confident lines, belong to an expressive visual storytelling tradition. They launch from real and imagined stories into complex narratives played out by an unusual cast of people and animals.

Inspiration for the figures and narratives in Paula Rego's artworks comes from a broad range of sources, including characters in children's stories and nursery rhymes—from Little Red Riding Hood to Snow White—as well as classic literature, mythology, and real-life events and personal experiences.

Evoking traditional fables and iconography Rego's characters are often female, and often anthropomorphic. Typically set within implicitly or explicitly domestic spaces, the narratives these characters enact are complex, often confronting, and deeply psychological. They explore darker aspects of human relationships, particularly within families, with a focus on female roles.

There is a disquieting tension and uneasy ambiguity generated in these depicted family microcosms in which psycho-sexual intrigue and taboo stir under the surface. Through her appropriated characters Rego twists the narratives ingrained in our cultural collective consciousness, challenging their prevailing idyllicism and institutionalised ideas of female behaviour. In Rego's re-imagining of popular tales the women, disobedient and abrasive, can play both the abuser and the abused.

In her later works, while continuing to explore ideas of femininity Paula Rego's interest in pastels comes to the fore. Paula Rego's drawings, paintings, and prints are regularly exhibited all around the world and can be found in major public collections such as The National Gallery, London; Sintra Museum of Modern Art, Portugal; Tate, London; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

In 2009 Casa das Histórias Paula Rego ('House of Stories Paula Rego')—a museum dedicated to the work of Paula Rego as well as her late husband Victor Willing—was opened in Cascais, Portugal. The following year, Rego was made a Dame of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours, and also won Madrid's prestigious MAFRE Foundation Drawing Prize.

Paula Rego Solo Exhibitions include:

Obedience and Defiance, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2019); Paula Rego, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Paris (2012); Paula Rego, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2007); Paula Rego, Tate Liverpool (1996); Tales from the National Gallery, The National Gallery, London (1991); Casa de Serralves, Serpentine Gallery, London (1988); Paula Rego, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (1988).

Paula Rego Group Exhibitions include:

All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life, Tate Britain, London (2018); Never Never, Aberystwyth Arts Centre (2012); Blood on Paper: The Art of the Book, Victoria and Albert Museum, London (2008); Metamorphing, Science Museum, London (2002); Turner Prize 1989, Tate Britain, London (1989); Portuguese Art since 1910, Royal Academy of Art, London (1978); London Group 1963, Art Federation Galleries, London (1963).

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020

Exhibition view: Paula Rego, The Forgotten, Victoria Miro, Wharf Road (19 November 2021–12 February 2022). © Paula Rego. Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro.

Paula Rego Featured Artworks

Reading the Divine Comedy by Dante by Paula Rego contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Paula Rego Reading the Divine Comedy by Dante, 2005 Pastel on paper on aluminium
180 x 120 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Self-Portrait III by Paula Rego contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Paula Rego Self-Portrait III, 2017 Pastel on paper
59 x 42 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Nursing by Paula Rego contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, drawing
Paula Rego Nursing, 2000 Wax crayon and watercolour on mylar
85.5 x 60 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
La Marafona by Paula Rego contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Paula Rego La Marafona, 2005 Pastel on paper on aluminium
187 x 135 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
The Fisherman by Paula Rego contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Paula Rego The Fisherman, 2005 Pastel on paper on aluminium
180 x 120 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
Mother Wears the Wolf's Pelt by Paula Rego contemporary artwork works on paper, drawing
Paula Rego Mother Wears the Wolf's Pelt, 2003 Pastel on paper
84 x 67 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire
The Hateful Aunt and her Son by Paula Rego contemporary artwork painting, works on paper, sculpture, drawing
Paula Rego The Hateful Aunt and her Son, 2017 Pastel and acrylic paint on paper on aluminium
160 x 120 cm
Victoria Miro Enquire

Paula Rego Current & Recent Exhibitions

Paula Rego Represented By

Victoria Miro contemporary art gallery in Wharf Road, London, United Kingdom Victoria Miro London, New York, Venice

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