the storytelling and social art of Paula Rego
Rego was born in 1935 on Lisbon, she started painting at four years old. She was influenced early on by stories her family would tell, and especially an illustrated old copy of Dante's Inferno that her dad kept. Often her artwork has women or girls are the main characters, or animal counterparts of them. Her early etchings experiment in recreating the theatrical illustrations she had seen, using fairy tales as her subject manner, and reminiscent of Goya's Los Capricos
Her early paintings have a loose graphic style with a vivid color palette. She was captivated as a young child when she saw her first disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the play between real and make-believe and places where trees could reach out and grab you. Her work is also personally reflective, often using family members (or family members disguised as animals) to create dramatic scenes.
Pregnant Rabbit Telling Her Parents
In her Girls with Dogs series she explores tensions of relationships. The dogs take the place of man, and explores themes of frustrations, power, and tenderness. At times the girls coddle the dogs, almost as if they are baby dolls. In one painting, called Looking Back, the scene is only of the girls frolicking in a fur blanket. Rego's explaination of the painting is that they have just killed the dog, they seem relieved as a much younger girl sits below them playing with her tiny pup.
Later on she explores this again with her Dog Women series, this time exploring woman as dog and the common physicalities–the dog as a more powerful being, as the woman herself. Her style has shifted to a darker color palette, and a more expressive of style of mark-making, which only emphasizes the emotive power these pieces emit.
This is only a small example of what Rego has to offer, she is one of the most inspirational and prolific social artists of our time. I can only hope that some of you already know about her, and if you are interested, this website is a great starting point, as this is only a small example of her vast collection of work. Her most recent work focuses on abortion and there is a good, more current article about her here.
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