Paula Rego

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Paula Rego is a renowned and famous Portuguese visual artist and painter, who is celebrated for paintings and prints that depict great tales from famous story books. Her work has featured the bold yet beautiful topics of feminism reflected through traditional folklore of Portugal.

Paula Rego was born on January 26, 1935, in Lisbon, Portugal. In 1945, Paula began attending St Julian’s School in Carcavelos, Portugal. In 1952, she decided to move to London to pursue her artistic education and training, and she enrolled herself in Slade School of Fine Arts. In 1954, Paula won the Summer Composition Prize organized by the Slade School. She remained at the School until 1956, and during this period she met and fell in love with fellow student, and future artist, Victor Willing. The two got married and the couple went on to have three children.

In 1957, Paula and her husband moved to Ericeira, Portugal, and Paula began her career as a visual artist and painter. In 1962, her work was awarded a bursary from the Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon. She began garnering fame and acclaim for her unique style of abstracts and her favored use of pastels that served to create to a dazzling effect on the canvas. In 1962, Paula began her affiliation with The London Group, a prolific and influential artists’ group. Thus, she began travelling to London more and more, and soon, in 1976, she along with her family, permanently moved back to London.

In 1965, Paula Rego was chosen to participate in a group show, the Six Artists, which took place at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, in London. The same year, she showcased her work in her first ever solo exhibition that took place at the Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes, in Lisbon. In 1969, Paula was chosen to represent her country, Portugal, at the Annual Sao Paulo Art Biennial.

In 1983, Paula was appointed as a visiting lecturer in painting at the Slade School of Fine Art. Meanwhile, she devoted her free time to her art, and during this period she had several solo shows in Portugal and London. Her work was showcased in prestigious galleries such as the AIR Gallery in London, the Arnolfini in Bristol, and the Edward Totah Gallery in London. In 1988, Paula showcased her work at her first major solo exhibition that was held at the Serpentine Gallery, in London. The exhibition was a huge success, however, for Paula, her fame was overshadowed by the tragedy that struck her with the death of her beloved husband, Victor, who had been fighting a prolonged battle with multiple sclerosis.

In 1990, Paula was appointed as the first National Gallery Associate Artist, in London, and soon, in 1992, she was awarded an Honorary Master of Art from the Winchester School of Art, in Hampshire. In 1997, Paula showcased her art in commercially successful and highly acclaimed retrospective exhibition that was held at the Tate Galleries, in Liverpool. Later, she went on to hold successful and applauded exhibitions at the Dulwich Picture Gallery and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

In 1999, Paula received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, and the same year, she was also the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK. In 2004, Paula Rego was honoured with the Gra-Cruz da Ordem de Sant’lago da Espada by the President of Portugal.

In 2007, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, organised an extravagant retrospective exhibition to honour her work, and the following year, this exhibition travelled to the Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington. In 2009, the Casa das Historias Paula Rego, a museum dedicated to the work of Paula and her husband, Victor, was opened in Cascais, Portugal.

Paula Rego continues to live and work in London, United Kingdom.

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