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Art HERstory: Paula Rego

Change is inevitable. The key to withstanding the test of time is being able to roll with the punches and adapt to the change that is sure to come. Portuguese painter Paula Rego (1935-) has prevailed in the art industry thanks to her ability to adjust. Artists like Paula are a gem. She accepted the changes and allowed them to expand her reach as an artist. Now a master of multiple art mediums, Paula Rego is one of the top figurative artists of our time.

Dancing Ostriches (1995)

At the age of 27, Paula dove head first into the professional art world. She began showing her work with The London Group, an established artists’ organization. Within the next two years, her work was included in a group show at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and her first solo exhibition was held at the Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes (SNBA) in Lisbon. Paula’s rapid rise to fame even earned her the honor of representing Portugal at the 1969 São Paulo Art Biennial, the second oldest biennial in the world. Art galleries still continue to summon her and display her work to this day.

The Fitting (1989)

Initially, the bulk of the work she put out was collages, but Paula later turned to using elements of Surrealism in her paintings and print work. The shift from clean, solid forms to free-form, abstract outlines happened in the 1960s. Paula hoped to illustrate two things with her change in style: the rise of abstraction in avant garde art and a rebellion against formal art training. While at the Slade School of Fine Art, Paula was confined to anatomical figure drawing. Every person had to be symmetrical, proportionate, and cleanly drawn. To maintain her creative voice, she kept a secret sketchbook of free form drawings that she knew would disappoint her instructors. The 1990s is when pastels became Paula’s tool of choice. She still uses them today.

Since the 1960s Paula Rego has steadily earned fame through her breathtaking collages, print work, paintings and pastel art. Today, she is regarded as one of the leading figurative artists alive. With honorary doctorates from institutions such as the University of Oxford, and undeniable talents in various art areas, I plan to see much more from her.

Image Layout: Phaymiss

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