Fabulous Female: Paula Rego

Paula Rego, Photograph: Eamonn Mccabe (The Guardian)

This week’s Fabulous Female is Paula Rego, a Portuguese painter famous for her depictions of young girls and traditional fairy tales. She has acknowledged that Simone de Beauvoir‘s The Second Sex has influenced her a great deal.

Rego has in her paintings dealt with such diverse topics as abortion, female genital mutilation, rape, desire, childbirth, dominating and being dominated by men.

Born in 1935 in Lisbon, Portugal, her father worked in Britain and she went to the only Anglophone school in the country at the time. Later she studied at Slade School of Art, where she rebelled against their teachings that female artists ought to mainly serve as inspiration for the “superior” male artists.

The Fitting by Paula Rego

Her earlier works from the 1960’s were semi-abstract and surrealistic – a clear break from the realistic style she had been taught at Slade.

She didn’t really became famous until her later years – in her 40’s and 50’s, when she once again changed her painting style and returned to a tighter and clearer style. Just as strong as her new drawing style were the women in her paintings, which were often put in disturbing situations.

The women in her paintings, are often shown as animalistic, unfeminine and brutal, to reject men’s idealized type of women.

In her 50’s she was nominated for the Turner Prize, and in 2010 she was made a Dame of the British Empire, and won the MAPFRE Foundation Drawing Prize. She has also been awarded honorary doctorates from Winchester School of Art, the University of East Anglia, Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Oxford. In 2009 a museum by the name of ‘The House of Stories; Paula Rego’, dedicated to her works, opened in Cascais, Portugal.

What do you think of Paula Rego and her paintings? Do you think women have an obligation to highlight women’s issues in their art? Do you have any other suggestions for fabulous women I can feature?



  1. pp

    to Paula Rego lovers…




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