Monthly Archives: January 2021

Wednesday 1st September – Paula Rego: Painting Women on the Edge, and Telling Tales of the Unexpected

Paula Rego: Painting Women on the Edge, and Telling Tales of the Unexpected

Wednesday 1st September 2021

Paula Rego

Image from Wikipedia, used under the Creative Commons Attribution

Linda Smith

This lecture looks at the life and work of Paula Rego, who is a British artist of Portuguese origin best known for her depictions of folk tales and strikingly unusual images of women.

Married to the British artist Victor Willing (1928-88), Paula Rego settled in this country permanently in the 1970s, but her career in Britain had effectively begun in the early 1960s, when she exhibited with artists like Frank Auerbach and David Hockney. Over the following twenty years her career and reputation built steadily, and in 1990 she was invited to become the first Associate Artist at the National Gallery. Her well-known series of paintings and prints based on nursery rhymes emerged from this residency, as did another series of large-scale paintings which is currently displayed in the National Gallery restaurant.

In her early days, Paula Rego experimented with many different styles, including abstraction, and was very much influenced by Surrealism, but her mature style places a strong emphasis on clear draughtsmanship and the human figure. She produces works which suggest complicated narratives full of psychological tension, drama, and emotion. Frequently she depicts women and girls in disturbing or ambiguous situations and poses, which has occasionally caused some controversy, but her insistence on the physicality of her female figures, and her refusal to idealise or revert to cliché, has earned her global recognition and many prestigious awards. She was made a DBE in 2010. 

Linda Smith holds two first-class degrees in Art History and specialises in British and twentieth century art. She is an experienced lecturer and guide at Tate Britain and Tate Modern and has lectured widely to schools, university students, and arts societies in the UK and abroad.

This is the first lecture of our 2021/ 22 season.