Paula Rego was born in Portugal, Lisbon in 1935. She grew up in a republican and liberal family, linked to both English and French culture, and studied at St. Julian’s School in Carcavelos. In the 1950s, her father encouraged her to pursue her artistic career away from the Portugal, and Paula enrolled at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in London, aged just 17. She met several artists at the school, including her future husband, Victor Willing. In her earliest works, Paula was strongly influenced by Surrealism, particularly the work of Juan 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. 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. Paula Rego is claimed by many as one of the top figurative artists of our time. Her work Broken Promises (in this post) was sold at London Christie’s in February 2012 for over a million dollars.
Rego’s quote on this work: “[Broken Promises] started off as Madame Butterfly, in which a girl is abandoned by a man who much later returns to her, bringing his wife. My grand daughter Lola posed on the chair and then I put Lila on the bed with a toy that disgusts her and can’t really satisfy her. I wanted everything jagged and broke up all the umbrellas so that they would have their spikes coming out. In the end I added Saint Sebastian, who actually is pierced by arrows. What interested me was the jaggedness of the relationship and the actual physical look of it.”
Paula currently lives and works in London.
Paula Rego (b. 1935)
pastel on paper laid down on board, mounted on aluminium
63 1/8 x 47 3/8in. (160.5 x 120.2cm.)
Executed in 2006
sold at Christies London for $1,142,055.17
Click on picture to see the large version at the Christie’s website.