Who wasPaula Rego?
Paula Regopassed away this Wednesday, June 8, 2022, at the age of 87. THELuso-British visual artist, he was particularly known for his paintings and prints based on stories, with a style called "beautiful grotesque". Throughout his career, he has created a fantastical world of his own, full of magic but also violence and ordeal. Painting, ceramics and serigraphy were some of the techniques he adapted to express pain, love and even break taboos. Considered in 2021, by the Financial Times, one of the 25 most influential women of the year,Paula Regostarted in the 1990s to finally get the attention it deserves for the extraordinary work it has been developing. An example of this are the recent retrospectives at the Tate and other renowned museums. Find out more in this article about the extraordinary Portuguese artist and her sources of inspiration, from which she extracted aléfigurative xico very own.
Vpersonal departure fromPaula Rego
Dame Maria Paula Figueiroa Rego was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1935, three years after the dictator António de Oliveira Salazar took power. from very early on,Paula Regowas introduced to a culturally rich family environment, permeated by republican and liberal political ideals. The family maintained relationships with other European cultures and the political convictions of José Rego (father ofPaula Rego) clashed with the political situation in Portugal at that time. Since 1932, António de Oliveira Salazar, Prime Minister of Portugal, continued the military dictatorship and plunged the country into a long period of scarce political and social freedom that lasted until the Carnation Revolution in 1974.
During her childhood, the Portuguese artist's father had the opportunity to study Engineering in England. When he returned to Portugal he was impressed by the anti-regime stance. In fact, early on,Paula Regodeveloped a political awareness and awareness of injustice and violence, particularly against women. The Salazar regime – its systematic torture, secret police and detention without trial – created an anxiety and anger inPaula Rego, who expressed this through his art. He began to paint at a young age, and at the age of 15 he was already portraying his vision of torture, O Interrogatório (1950). From 1945 to 1951,Paula Regoattended St. Julian's School in Carcavelos, an enriching experience from a cultural and artistic point of view, as it was an English school that offered a broad horizon of British culture.
Due to the political situation in Portugal at the time — Salazar’s fascist dictatorship —Paula Regowent to study at the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London. At this school he received his 1st Summer Composition Prize in 1952. In London, he met the artist, while still a student, Victor Willing, with whom he married and had three children. This relationship was stormy and complex, with infidelities on both sides. A love triangle betweenPaula Rego, Victor Willing and his lover is depicted in the 1981 painting, “Red Monkey Offers Bear a Poisoned Dove”. the son ofPaula Rego, Nick Willing told Jornal Público:
“My parents had a marriage with a lot of love, but also complicated, with a lot of pain, a lot of suffering. In Red Monkey Offers Bear a Poisoned Dove, one of the paintings in The Red Monkey series from the early 1980s: the bear is the lover ofPaula Rego, which is represented in it as the dove that her husband, the painter Victor Willing (the monkey, naturally) gives to another man. The paintings in this series give my mother permission to do something that she was afraid to do and that she ended up not doing – cutting off my relationship with my father, who lived for many years ill in bed. My mother had other boyfriends while she was married to my father, she had a lot of fun, but she never stopped being Vic Willing's wife. It still is today.”
"Red Monkey Offers Bear a Poisoned Dove" byPaula Rego, 1981
In 1957, he returned to Portugal, more specifically to Ericeira. Between 1965-1966,Paula Regoheld his first solo exhibition at the Galeria de Arte Moderna, at the Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes in Lisbon. An exhibition very well received by the critics and the public, who considered her works extremely innovative, although she was considered as a political artist who developed working methods and violent images. From 1963 onwards, the Gulbenkian Foundation's return ended and the artist traveled between the two countries, Portugal and the United Kingdom, until 1976, when he settled in London. The year 1966 marked the beginning of a very complicated time in the life ofPaula Rego: first, her father died and, immediately after that, her husband, Victor Willing, was diagnosed with a degenerative disease. In 1969,Paula Regoaccepted the invitation to participate in the XI Bienal de São Paulo – Brazil. In 1983, she began teaching as a guest lecturer in the subject of Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art and, in 1988, she held her first major solo exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, in London. In 1983,Paula Regowas invited by Moira Kelly to participate in an exhibition, in New York, of English art entitled Eight for the Eighties.
The Policeman's Daughter" byPaula Rego, 1987
In 1988, Victor Willing died of multiple sclerosis. In 1990,Paula Regowas invited to be the first Associate Artist at the National Gallery, London. The first two works that the artist completed during her stay at the National Gallery were “A Prova” and “A Madrinha do Novilheiro”, works on power relations based on positions in the social hierarchy. In the 1990s, she is finally recognized internationally for her work. His production has been shown retrospectively since 1988 (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian), highlighting the exhibitions at Fundação de Serralves (2004), Tate Britain (2005) and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. In 2009, the Casa das Histórias opened to the public in Cascais.Paula Rego, dedicated to the work of the artist and her husband, Victor Willing. In 2017, the documentary filmPaula Rego, Stories & Secrets, made by your son.
The influences on the work ofPaula Rego, from fairy tales to Disney movies
Paula Regostood out for creating a totally original figurative language based on stories, whether traditional tales, fairy tales, novels or plays. This is the constant thread of his work, the imaginary reinvention of literature by authors such as Charlotte Brontë, Eça de Queiroz, Franz Kafka, Hans Christian Andersen and Martin McDonagh. Through painting,Paula Regoseeks to “integrate timeless stories into contemporary mythology and subjective experience”. In addition to the themes, the technique also “manifests an authorial autonomy that highlights it from the main current artistic trends, from abstractionism to conceptualism, privileging a figurative language, through which he composes surreal scenes, mixing figuration and abstraction, with a fine satirical sense”.
Books were a constant presence in the Rego household, especially those with works by English illustrators such as John Tenniel (1820-1914) in Alice in Wonderland (his favourite), Arthur Rackham (1867-1939), Beatrix Potter (1866-1943) and others, but above all by the famous Frenchman Benjamin Rabier (1864-1939), well known as the author of the ad La vache qui rit. These works and cinema, namely Walt Disney's films (Fantasy, Peter Pan, Pinocchio and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs), also positively influenced the artist's imagination and creative process. These films and stories gave rise to a series of paintings, prints and drawings that the artist developed in a very peculiar way.Paula Regoreconstructed the stories, from elements that can go from a character or event to a fragment of image to reconstruct them from a new starting point, creating new stories and establishing multiple outcomes and intertextual relationships.The artist brought the stories of her childhood, her memory and gathered them in a multiplicity of references that give rise to the stories that she repeatedly invents/reinvents during five decades of artistic activity, in a constant process of creation and becoming.
"Snow White Swallows the Poisoned Apple" byPaula Rego, 1995
The Animals in the Paintings ofPaula Rego
The hybridization process between human and/or animal forms intends to question and subvert the primordial principle of all hierarchies: the human above the mere animal, in order to displace the supremacy of human reason, without, however, proposing a new hierarchy. , because people are also capable of acting and reacting in an irrational way, an inherent constitution of humanity.Paula Regobrings this game of hierarchical transgression for its audience to reflect on the segregation of the animalistic component intrinsic to the human being that society historically strives to repress.
'War' fromPaula Rego, 2003
Portuguese Folk Tales in the work ofPaula Rego
In 1975,Paula Regoreceived a research grant on fairy tales from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in London. The artist focused on the project For approximately six months, the artist focused her research on illustrators and Portuguese folk tales, present in the Library and the British Museum. From this new reference,Paula Regoexecuted a series of gouache paintings entitled, Portuguese folk tales: Branca-Flor, 1974-5. These works had as a background the oral tradition of Portuguese tales, howeverPaula Regodoes not create literal illustrations of the stories. What interested the artist was the intersection between her own memories, the meanings of the stories and the political and social events of everyday life.
«Portuguese Popular Tales: Branca Flor – the devil and the devil in bed» (detail) byPaula Rego, 1975
The Woman in the Paintings ofPaula Rego
Paula Regohe worked with realism, that is, in an imposing way, he gives the figures an attitude and gravity typical of figures in historical paintings. The theme of historical painting is based on historical facts of great importance, mythological, literary and religious history scenes. Thus, the patriarchal hierarchy was constantly revealed in his paintings. An example of this is the painting “The Cadet and the Sister”, which represents a relationship between brothers notably marked by the subservience of the female gender. The brother's figure is seated on a stone bench, while the young woman is crouched, in a form of humiliation. This work broke records at an auction in London.Owned by an American private collector,The Cadet and his SisterIt had an initial estimate of between €846,000 and €1.1 million, but ended up being sold for €1,614,795, a new record for the artist, a source from Sotheby's, organizer of the auction, told Lusa. The previous record was 865 thousand euros and was reached in 2011 with the sale of the paintinglooking back(1987) by Christie's.
Other paintings included in this theme stand out, such as Departure (1988), “The Soldier’s Daughter” (1987), “The Policeman’s Daughter” (1987) and “The Family” (1988). The “Mulher-Cão” series also inaugurated a new way for the artist to work with visual composition, with complex visual narratives, full of elements and details and several characters in a single work, which offered a pictorial space reduced to one or two characters. .
"The Cadet and his Sister" inPaula Rego
The pictorial technique ofPaula Rego
The first works produced in the mid-1950s, involved drawing, cutting out shapes, collage, overlapping and the intervention of other materials such as ink and pastel, thus constituting the work’s imagery, continually becoming a inseparable from the subject matter. Drawing is a constant support for the work ofPaula Rego, which can be denoted, from the naive figurations during his years at the Slade School of Art to his political collages about a country under dictatorship, passing through the narrative pieces in acrylic.
From the 1980s onwards, the artist abandoned collages and devoted herself to painting and figurative drawing, with the techniques used in full harmony with the thematic content of the works. “On that occasion, the gestural drawing made in ink, directly on the surface and the reduced palette of colors concentrated the artist's need to express herself directly and quickly. This requirement is partly justified by the influence of Dubuffet's Art Brut and the assumptions of surrealist automatism, two important references that marked his artistic trajectory.”
"Time – Past and Present" (detail) byPaula Rego, 1990
However, from the beginning of the 1990s, when she became the First Associate Artist at the National Gallery, in London, her contact with classical painting made her compositions acquire a naturalistic spatial and figurative conception, giving rise to a mise en scène. that maintains, however, the same dramatic and intriguing charge transversal to his works. At this point, I had already made the transition from ink to pastel. For much of his career,Paula Regohe preferred pastels to oils, saying in an interview: "Yes. Pastel, pastel, pastel, pastel, pastel [...] Never rubbing anything. Drawing, drawing, drawing [...] I don't like the hesitation of the brush, I am I'm not mad at the lyrical quality of the brush. I much prefer the hardness of the stick [...] The stick is fiercer, much more aggressive."
Paula Regonever uses the technique of academic perspective, the two-dimensionality of the canvas being a powerful resource of temporal representation due to the arrangement of forms that are distant and close at the same time. Painted from direct observation, the models portray individual, but also collective and feminine feelings and traumas, especially in the series “Aborto”, a political manifesto about Portugal’s first referendum on the voluntary termination of pregnancy. The vivid paintings ofPaula Regooffer a haunting portrait of contemporary society and, at the same time, of human nature itself.
"The Dance" byPaula Rego, 1988
Internationally, the influence of Rego's work is strongly felt in contemporary painting, sculpture and printmaking.Paula Regohe worked with realism, that is, in an imposing way, he gives the figures an attitude and gravity typical of figures in historical paintings. This perspective influenced other artists. The British curator of modern and contemporary art at Tate Britain believes that the influence ofPaula Regoit was broader and deeper than is often recognized. “I see [her influence] in the work of most female painters – particularly artists who are involved with the body – and with the position of women in the world. In fact, I would struggle to think of a significant painter, particularly in Britain, where I can't see a connection to Paula." Artists who challenge traditional representations of the female body are particularly grateful toPaula Rego, for example, the British painter Jenny Saville.
"Love" byPaula Rego, 1995
National and international recognition ofPaula Rego
Paula Regois one of the main Portuguese artists with a great international influence. In 2004, she had another retrospective at the Serralves Museum, in Porto, and in 2009, she was honored with the creation of Casa das Histórias.Paula Rego, a dedicated museum built in Cascais, where he spent a lot of time as a child. The building was designed by architect EduardoSouto de Moura, which perfectly inserted an impressive contemporary structure into a beautiful natural setting. The museum houses many works by Rego, as well as paintings by the artist's late husband, Victor Willing. His production has been shown retrospectively since 1988 (Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian), including exhibitions at Fundação de Serralves (2004), Tate Britain (2005) and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Rainha Sofia, and he recently had a retrospective at Tate Britain and a room dedicated to his paintings at the Venice Art Biennale.