Artist Dame Paula Rego dies aged 87
Artist Dame Paula Rego dies aged 87: Portuguese-British painter whose pioneering feminist works challenged abortion rights and FGM passes away after short illness surrounded by family at her north London home
- Portuguese-British painter Dame Paula Rego has died at home in London today aged 87
- Over a career spanning five decades, Rego created works that challenged attitudes towards abortion
- She was seen as one of the most notable figurative feminist artists of her generation
- Rego’s pioneering work ranged from painting, pastel, and prints to sculptural installations
- She is also widely credited with revolutionising the way women are represented in art
Renowned feminist Portuguese-British painter Dame Paula Rego has died at home in London today aged 87.
Over a career spanning more than five decades, Rego created pioneering feminist works on abortion, FGM, sex trafficking and honour killings.
She was seen as one of the most notable figurative artists of her generation, with her work ranging from painting, pastel, and prints to sculptural installations – and she is widely credited with revolutionising the way women are represented in art.
Notable among her works are her Dog Woman pastel drawings, which portray women in a series of canine poses, and her portrait of Germaine Greer from 1995 which featured in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
She also made magical pictures based on her childhood memories and fairytales, with her works selling for hundreds of thousands of pounds and featuring in collections owned by famous names like Charles Saatchi and Madonna.
Rego was the first artist-in-residence at the National Gallery in London and a retrospective exhibition of her work was held at the Tate Britain last year.
File photo of Portuguese-British painter Dame Paula Rego in circa May 2004
Paula Rego posing in front of her triptych painting ‘Dancing Ostriches from Disney’s ‘Fantasia” during the opening of her show at the Marlborough Gallery, New York, December 3, 1996
Rego was seen as one of the most notable figurative artists of her generation, with her work ranging from painting, pastel, and prints to sculptural installations
Dame Paula Rego’s painting Good Dog, pictured at a Sotheby’s auction preview in London, October 8, 2021
A visitor looks at the artwork ‘Artist in her Studio’ by Portuguese artist Paula Rego
A staff member views ‘Bride’, 1994, by Paula Rego
Left, Paula Rego. Right, Rego after being made a Dame Commander at Buckingham Palace on October 20, 2010
Announcing her death on Twitter, the Victoria Miro art gallery said: ‘It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of the Portuguese-born, British artist Dame Paula Rego at the age of 87. She died peacefully this morning, after a short illness, at home in North London, surrounded by her family. Our heartfelt thoughts are with them’.
Carlos Carreiras, mayor of the town of Cascais, home to a museum dedicated to her work, said: ‘Portuguese culture has lost one of its most important and irreverent creators, someone who distinguished herself as a woman, human being and artist.’
Born in 1935 in Lisbon into a prosperous family, Rego was sent to an English finishing school as a teenager in Kent by her anti-fascist father to escape Salazar’s dictatorship.
Her talent for art was quickly spotted, painting The Interrogation – a harrowing depiction of torture – when she was just 15, and she went on to study at London’s prestigious Slade School of Fine Art.
The artist first came to prominence in Portugal with semi-abstract work that dealt with violent or political subjects.
Paula Rego at the ‘Scandal,Gossip and Other Stories’ exhibition in London, on November 14, 2014
Paula Rego (pictured centre front), with (L-R) Anish Kapoor, Sir Howard Hodgkin, Sir Nicholas Serota, Anthony Caro, Chris Ofili, and Peter Blake with the bust of Sir Henry Tate, founder of the Tate gallery, October 2004
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (right) is seen pointing at an artwork with other authorities during the opening of the exhibition of Portuguese painter and illustrator Paula Rego at Picasso Museum, April 26, 2022
In an interview with The Guardian last year, she said: ‘I paint the women I know. I paint what I see’
Rego gained further recognition after exhibiting with the London Group in the 1960s alongside artists such as David Hockney.
Her later pieces drew on the folk stories from her homeland and popular children’s tales like Little Red Riding Hood, but she also used her own experiences, real and imagined, of her upbringing filled with neat little girls, maids and grandmothers but with a sexual or violent subtext.
In an interview with The Guardian last year, she said: ‘I paint the women I know. I paint what I see. I make women the protagonists because I am one’.
In 2017 the BBC broadcast a documentary, Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories, directed by Rego’s son Nick Willing, which provided a unique insight into the artist’s life and work.
She was made a Dame Commander by the Queen in 2010 at a ceremony held at Buckingham Palace, and won the Mapfre Foundation Drawing Prize in Madrid in the same year.
The artist has received numerous honorary doctorates including from universities of Oxford and Cambridge and from the Rhode Island School of Design in the US.
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