Dame Paula Rego, the renowned Portuguese-British artist, has died aged 87. Over a career spanning more than five decades she created magical pictures based on her childhood memories and fairy tales, with her works selling for hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Born in 1935 in Lisbon into a prosperous family, Dame Paula was sent to an English finishing school in Kent as a teenager. Her talent for art was spotted and she studied at London’s prestigious Slade School of Fine Art. She first came to prominence in Portugal with semi-abstract work that dealt with violent or political subjects. She gained further recognition after exhibiting with the London Group in the 1960s alongside the likes of David Hockney.
Her later pieces drew on the folk stories from her homeland and children’s tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, but she also used experiences of her upbringing filled with neat little girls, maids and grandmothers but with a sexual or violent subtext.
Dame Paula 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. She described herself as a feminist artist, and was credited with revolutionising the way women are represented. Subjects like sex trafficking and honour killings also provided material for her pieces.
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.
Dame Paula was also the first artist-in-residence at the National Gallery in London and a retrospective exhibition of her work was held at the Tate Britain gallery last year.
In 2017 the BBC broadcast a documentary, Paula Rego: Secrets And Stories, directed by her 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 and won the Mapfre Foundation Drawing Prize in Madrid in the same year. In addition, the artist has received numerous honorary doctorates.
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