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Born in Lisbon, Portugal, Paula Rego (b. 1935) is one of Europe’s most influential contemporary figurative artists. A painter of “stories”, her characters enact a variety of roles and depict disquieting tensions below the surface. Her large pastel paintings and sharply drawn etchings are psychologically charged depictions of human dramas and narratives.
Rego studied at the Slade School of Fine Art (1952-56) and was an exhibiting member of the London Group, along with David Hockney and Frank Auerbach. She was the first artist-in-residence at the National Gallery in London. Rego has received honorary doctorates from the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, the University of East Anglia, Norwich, the Rhode Island School of Design, USA, The London Institute, Roehampton University, London, and Oxford University. In 2010 she was created a Dame of the British Empire in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, and won the Mapfre Foundation Drawing Prize, Madrid (2010).
Notable exhibitions include: CalousteGulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon (1988); Serpentine Gallery, London (1988); Tate Liverpool, Liverpool (1997); Dulwich Picture Gallery, London (1998); Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (2001); Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto (2004); Tate Britain, London (2005); MuseoNacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2007); National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C. (2008); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2010).
During July to October 2021, Tate Britain will present "The largest and most comprehensive retrospective of Paula Rego’s work to date". The exhibition will tell the story of this artist’s extraordinary life, highlighting the personal nature of much of her work and the socio-political context in which it is rooted. It will also reveal the artist’s broad range of references, from comic strips to history painting.
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. Her influences include Juan Miro (Spanish, 1893–1983), Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), Jean Philipe Dubuffet (French, 1901–1985), Walt Disney (American, 1901–1966), and caricaturists.