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Paula Rego

Nationality  Portuguese
Name  Paula Rego
Education  Slade School of Fine Art
Known for  Painting, printmaking
Role  Visual artist
Nominations  Turner Prize
Paula Rego 40mediatumblrcom2bd7f550e925b741d00a1583a1c03b
Born  26 January 1935 (age 80) (1935-01-26) Portugal
Awards  Dame of the British Empire Gra-Cruz da Ordem Militar de Sant'Iago da Espada
Spouse  Victor Willing (m. 1959–1988)
Artwork  The Policeman's Daughter, Dog Woman, The Fitting
Children  Nick Willing, Victoria Willing, Caroline Willing
Similar People  Victor Willing, Victoria Willing, Nick Willing

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Dame Paula Rego, (born 26 January 1935), is a Portuguese visual artist who is particularly well known for her paintings and prints based on storybooks. Rego’s style has evolved from abstract towards representational, and she has favoured pastels over oils for much of her career. Her work often reflects feminism, coloured by folk-themes from her native Portugal. Rego studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and was an exhibiting member of the London Group with David Hockney and Frank Auerbach. She was the first artist-in-residence at the National Gallery in London. She lives and works in London.

Paula Rego Paula Rego Artist39s Profile The Saatchi Gallery

Paula rego on fear

Early life

Paula Rego Paula Rego Artist39s Profile The Saatchi Gallery

Rego was born on 26 January 1935 in Lisbon, Portugal. Her father was an electrical engineer who worked for the Marconi Company. Although this gave her a comfortable middle class home, the family was divided in 1936 when her father was posted to work in the United Kingdom. Accompanied by Rego's mother, they left Rego behind in Portugal in the care of her grandmother until 1939. Her grandmother was to become a significant figure in Rego's life as she learnt many of the traditional folktales that would one day make their way into her art work from her grandmother and the family maid.

Paula Rego Paula Rego Girls Dogs and Subverted Fairy Tales

Rego's family were keen Anglophiles, and Rego was sent to the only English language school in Portugal at the time, Saint Julian's School in Carcavelos from 1945 to 1951. Although nominally a Catholic and living in a devoutly Catholic country, St Julian's School was Anglican and this combined with the hostility of Rego's father for the Catholic Church to create a distance between her and full blooded Catholic belief. Rego has described herself as having become a "sort of Catholic," but equally she possessed as a child a sense of Catholic guilt and a very real belief that the Devil is real.

Paula Rego Painting Collection Casa das Histrias Museu Paula Rego

In 1951, Rego was sent to the United Kingdom to attend a finishing school called The Grove School, in Sevenoaks, Kent. Unhappy here, Rego attempted in 1952 to start studies in art at the Chelsea School of Art in London, but this was thwarted by her legal guardian in Britain, David Phillips, who feared her parents might not approve of their daughter mixing with art students. Returning to Portugal for the holidays that summer Rego discovered quite the opposite was true, and so she applied to study art in London again, this time at the Slade School of Fine Art. She attended the Slade School of Fine Art from 1952 to 1956.

Paula Rego Paula Rego Gustave Moreau Eternal Gathering

At the Slade Rego met her future husband, Victor Willing, who was also a student at the Slade. In 1957 Rego and Willing left London to live in Ericeira, Portugal. They were able to marry in 1959 following Willing's divorce from his first wife, Hazel Whittington. Three years later Rego's father bought the couple a house in London, at Albert Street in Camden Town and Rego's time was spent divided between Britain and Portugal. In 1966 Rego's father died, and the family electrical business was taken over, unwillingly, by Rego's husband, although he had himself been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The company failed in 1974 during the Portuguese Revolution that overthrew the country's right wing Estado Novo dictatorship, with the production works taken over by the revolutionary forces, even though Rego's family had been supporters of the political left. As a result Rego, Willing and their children moved permanently to London and spent most of their time there until Willing's death in 1988.


Paula Rego Abbot Hall Art Gallery

Although Rego was commissioned by her father to produce a series of large scale murals to decorate the works' canteen at his electrical factory in 1954 whilst she was still a student, Rego's artistic career effectively began in early 1962 when she began showing with The London Group, a long established artists' organization which included David Hockney and Frank Auerbach among its members. In 1965 she was selected to take part in a group show, Six Artists, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London. That same year she had her first solo show at the Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes (SNBA) in Lisbon. She was also the Portuguese representative at the 1969 Sao Paulo Art Biennial. Between 1971 and 1978 she was to have seven solo shows in Portugal, in Lisbon and Oporto, and then a series of solo exhibitions in Britain, including at the AIR Gallery in London in 1981, the Arnolfini in Bristol in 1983, and the Edward Totah Gallery, London in 1984, 1985 and 1987.

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In 1988, Rego was the subject of a retrospective exhibition at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon and the Serpentine Gallery in London. This led on to Rego being invited to become the first Associate Artist at the National Gallery, London in 1990, in what was the first of a series of artist-in-residence schemes organized by the gallery. From this emerged two sets of work. The first was a series of paintings and prints on the theme of nursery rhymes, which was toured around Britain and elsewhere by the Arts Council of Great Britain and British Council from 1991 to 1996. The second was a series of large scale paintings inspired by the paintings of Carlo Crivelli in the National Gallery, known as 'Crivelli’s Garden' which are now housed in the main restaurant at the gallery.

Other exhibitions include a retrospective at Tate Liverpool in 1997, Dulwich Picture Gallery in 1998, Tate Britain in 2005 and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 2007. A major retrospective was also held of her work at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid in 2007, which travelled to the Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, the following year.

In 2008, Rego showed at Marlborough Chelsea in New York, and staged a retrospective of her graphic works at the Ecole Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Nimes. As well as showing at Marlborough Fine Art in London in 2010, the art critic Marco Livingstone organised a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey, Mexico, which was later shown at the Pinacoteca de Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Rego's artwork can now be seen at public and private institutions around the world. The artist has 43 works in the collection of the British Council, 10 works in the collection of the Arts Council of England, 46 works in the Tate Gallery, London, as well as many other institutions.

Rego is currently represented by Marlborough Fine Art.

Style and influences

Rego is a prolific painter and printmaker, and in earlier years was also a producer of collage work. Her most well known depictions of folk tales and images of young girls, made largely since 1990, bring together the methods of painting and printmaking with an emphasis on strong and clearly drawn forms, in contrast to Rego's earlier more loose style paintings.

Yet in her earliest works, such as Always at Your Excellency's Service, painted in 1961, Rego was strongly influenced by Surrealism, particularly the work of Joan Miro. This manifested itself not only in the type of imagery that appeared in these works but in the method Rego employed which was based on the Surrealist idea of automatic drawing, in which the artist attempts to disengage the conscious mind from the making process to allow the unconscious mind to direct the image making. At times these paintings almost verged on abstraction, but as proven by Salazar Vomiting the Homeland, painted in 1960, even when her work veered toward abstraction a strong narrative element remained in place, with Salazar being the right-wing dictator of Portugal in power at the time.

There are two principal causes for Rego adopting a semi-abstract style in the 1960s. The first is the simple dominance of abstraction in avant garde artistic circles at the time, which set figurative art on the defensive. But Rego was also reacting against her training at the Slade School, where a very strong emphasis had been placed on anatomical figure drawing. Under the encouragement of her fellow student and later husband Victor Willing, Rego kept a 'secret sketchbook', alongside her official school sketchbooks, whilst at the Slade, in which she made free form drawings of a type that would have been frowned upon by her tutors. This apparent dislike of crisp drawing techniques in the 1960s manifested itself not only in the style of works such as Faust and the Red Monkey series of the 1980s, which resemble expressionistic comic book drawing, but in her acknowledged influences at the time, which included Jean Dubuffet and Chaim Soutine.

A notable change of style emerged in 1990 following Rego's appointment to be the first 'Associate Artist' of the National Gallery, London, which was effectively an artist-in-residence scheme. Her brief was to 'work in whatever way she wished around works in the collection.' As the National Gallery is overwhelmingly an Old Master collection Rego seems to have been pulled back towards a much clearer, or tighter, linear style that is reminiscent of the highly wrought drawing technique she would have been taught at the Slade. The result of this was a series of works which came to characterise the popular perception of Rego's style, comprising strong clear drawing, with depictions of equally strong women in sometimes disturbing situations. Works like Crivelli's Garden have clear links to the paintings by Carlo Crivelli in the National Gallery, but other works made at the time, like Joseph's Dream and The Fitting, also draw spatially and in their subject matter from Old Master works by artists such as Diego Velazquez.

Having given up college in the late 1970s, Rego began using pastels as a medium in the early 1990s, and continues to use this medium to this day, almost to the exclusion of oil paint. Amongst the most notable works made in pastel are those of her Dog Women series, in which women are shown sitting, squatting, scratching and generally behaving as if they are dogs. This antithesis of what is considered feminine behaviour, and many other works in which there appears to be either the threat of female violence or its actual manifestation, has associated Rego with feminism, and she has acknowledged reading Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, a key feminist text, at a young age and this making a deep impression on her. Her work also chimed with the interest of feminist writers on art such as Griselda Pollock in Freudian criticism in the 1990s, with works such as Girl Lifting up her Skirt to a Dog of 1986, and Two Girls and a Dog of 1987 appearing to have disturbing Freudian sexual undertones. However Rego has been known to slap down critics who read too much sexual connotation into her work.

Another explanation for Rego's depiction of women as unfeminine, animalistic or brutal beings is that this reflects the physical reality of a woman as a human being in the physical world, and not idealised types in the minds of men.

Solo exhibitions

  • Sociedade Nacional de Belas-Artes, Lisbon (1965)
  • Galeria Sao Mamede, Lisbon (1971)
  • Galeria Alvarez, Oporto (1972)
  • Galeria da Emenda, Lisbon (1974)
  • Modulo Centro Difusor da Arte, Lisbon (1975)
  • Modulo Centro Difusor da Arte, Oporto (1977)
  • Galeria III, Lisbon (1978)
  • AIR Gallery, London (1981)
  • Galeria III, Lisbon (1982)
  • Edward Totah Gallery, London (1982)
  • Arnolfini, Bristol (1983)
  • Galerie Espace, Amsterdam (1983)
  • South Hill Park Arts Centre, Nottingham, England (1984)
  • Edward Totah Gallery, London (1984)
  • The Art Palace, New York (1985)
  • Edward Totah Gallery, London (1985)
  • Selected work 1981‑1986, Aberystwyth Arts Centre (1987)
  • Retrospective Exhibition, Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon (1988)
  • Serpentine Gallery, London (1988)
  • Nursery Rhymes, Marlborough Graphics Gallery, Galeria III and Galeria Zen (1989)
  • Tales from the National Gallery, National Gallery, London (1991)
  • Peter Pan & Other Stories, Marlborough Fine Art, London (1992)
  • Nursery Rhymes, Cheltenham Literary Festival (1993)
  • Dog Women, Marlborough Fine Art, London (1994)
  • Nursery Rhymes, Cardiff Literature Festival (1995)
  • Nursery Rhymes, University Gallery, University of Northumbria at Newcastle (1996)
  • Paula Rego, Tate Gallery Liverpool (1997)
  • Pendle Witches and Peter Pan, Midland Art Centre (1998)
  • The Sins of Father Amaro, Dulwich Picture Gallery, London (1998)
  • Pra La et Pra Ca, Galerie III, Lisbon (1998)
  • The Children's Crusade, Marlborough Graphics, London (1999)
  • Open Secrets – Drawings and Etchings by Paula Rego, University Art Gallery, University of Massachusetts, USA (1999)
  • Celestina’s House, Abbot Hall Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art (2001)
  • Jane Eyre, Marlborough Gallery Inc. (2002)
  • Corner 2004, Charlottenborg, Copenhagen (2003)
  • Paula Rego in Focus, Tate Britain (2004)
  • Paula Rego, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (2007)
  • Public collections

    Rego's works can be found in a number of public institutions, including:

  • Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal
  • Arts Council England
  • Berardo Collection Museum, Sintra Museum of Modern Art, Portugal
  • British Council, London
  • British Museum, London
  • Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery
  • Chapel of the Palacio de Belem, Lisbon
  • Frissiras Museum, Athens
  • Leeds Art Gallery
  • Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
  • National Gallery, London
  • National Portrait Gallery, London
  • New Hall, Cambridge
  • Rugby Museum and Art Gallery
  • Tate Gallery, London
  • Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester
  • Yale Center for British Art
  • Recognition

    Rego has received honorary doctorates from the Winchester School of Art, the University of East Anglia, the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Oxford. In 2004 she was awarded the Gra Cruz da Ordem de Sant'Iago da Espada by the President of Portugal.

    In 2009 a museum dedicated to Rego's work and designed by the architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, the Casa das Historias Paula Rego, was opened in Cascais, Portugal and several key exhibitions of her work have since been staged here.

    In 2010, Rego was made a Dame of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours. In 2010 Rego also won the MAPFRE Foundation Drawing Prize in Madrid.

    Personal life

    Rego is a supporter of S.L. Benfica, just like her grandfather who was a founding member of the club.


    Paula Rego Wikipedia

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