Tribute to Paula Rego, an important artist who died at the age of 87, through the photos of Miles Aldridge

This Wednesday, June 8th, the Portuguese artist Paula Rego died at the age of 87. Paula Rego, the only woman in the London School group alongside Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, defined the 20th and 21st centuries with her figurative paintings that mixed realism and fantasy, and her sometimes slightly disturbing installations in which the body without Taboos as currently presented in the main exhibition of the 59th Venice Biennale or in the exhibition “All I Want” presenting the works of forty Portuguese artists at the CCC OD in Tours. In 2018, the photographer Miles Aldridge paid tribute to him on the occasion of his exhibition at the Musée de l’Orangerie by reinterpreting his paintings in the form of snapshots item number.


Floral print satin dress, MICHAEL KORS COLLECTION.  Band, MOCUBA.  Sandals, MICHEL VIVIEN.  vintage glasses.

Floral print satin dress, MICHAEL KORS COLLECTION. Band, MOCUBA. Sandals, MICHEL VIVIEN. vintage glasses.

Something terrible, unbelievable seems to have happened to him dog women by Paula Rego : they curl up, bark plaintively, smile, growl. They are disturbing because they give us that terrifying, deeply buried darkness in which we recognize a part of ourselves: unbearable pain, sadness, unfulfilled longing, humiliation.

Paula Rego painted her series dog woman early 90s, a few years after the disappearance of her husband, the artist Victor Willing. The couple met in the 1950s at the Slade School of Fine Art. She was not yet 20 years old and her father had sent her to London to study. Portugal was then under the authoritarian rule of Salazar, and she recalls growing up under political and social oppression. The anxious obedience of these “dog women” stems from this – from coercion by the dictatorship and by a society that asked women to submit. “They were what I felt then‘ said the artist.

in the The wedding guest (The wedding guest), We discover a visibly drunk woman in complete confusion. Leaning against a sink, she staggers on high heels. Her pinned-up hat stays in place, but her blouse and skirt are inexplicably wide open. This woman’s slightly dazed half-smile and awkward posture raise doubt and confusion: did she find herself in an unexpected situation? Was she raped or attacked?

Cotton and silk bralette, KENZO.  Prince of Wales wool skirt, APC knee socks, FALKE.
Cotton and silk bralette, KENZO.  Prince of Wales wool skirt, APC knee socks, FALKE.

Cotton and silk bralette, KENZO. Prince of Wales wool skirt, APC knee socks, FALKE.

About his mind-blowing series entitled cancellation [Avortement] (1999), Rego said that physical pain and eroticism are inextricably linked: women are placed in forced positions where they could be penetrated either by the abortionist’s hand or by a lover. Drawing on her own experiences of clandestine abortions in London in the 1950s, the artist conceived these ten large pastels as a scathing response to the anti-abortion laws in force in Portugal at the time. These works embody a human experience that was invisible in the art world and society at the time.

Paula Rego often drew on children’s stories, English or Portuguese legends and nursery rhymes. The everyday violence and magical thought that populate these stories and refrains from our childhood find a truly human density in the artist’s imagery. We discover Snow White, devastated by suffering after biting the poisoned apple, writhing, head bowed, tearing her clothes, here nothing to do with the sanitized world of a Walt Disney cartoon.

Socks, FALCON.  Sneakers, APC dress VINTAGE.
Socks, FALCON.  Sneakers, APC dress VINTAGE.

Socks, FALCON. Sneakers, APC dress VINTAGE.

Lila Nunes modeled Paula Rego for Snow White. The one who came as an au pair when Victor Willing was ill has been working closely with the artist since 1985. In 1986, Paula Rego created a series of paintings in which we see a young girl resolutely taking care of a dog: she mows it, feeds it with a spoon, puts it on a leash. Are these pictures Paula Rego or Lila Nunes? Even then it was both… and neither. “She uses me as herself‘ said Lila Nunes, referring to the artist-to-model relationship. Paula Rego’s first creative gesture when beginning with a canvas is to position Lila Nunes in a physically eloquent position.

Paula Rego also has humor and mischief. In all works inspired by the Disney universe, poor Snow White’s woes rub shoulders with a collection of “ostrich” dancers who refer to it fantasy (1940). It’s a bit as if the artist had turned the ostriches into women with a magic wand: suddenly there they are, in strange, awkward postures, clad in their big black tutus.

[Photographies et texte publiés en 2018 dans le Numéro art 3 à l’occasion de l’exposition “Les Contes cruels de Paula Rego” au musée de l’Orangerie, Paris.]

Tulle tutu, REPETTO. Pointes, Bloch. vintage bra

Dress in printed nylon canvas with cloqué, PRADA. Cotton poplin dress, FIFI CHACHNIL. Band, MOCUBA. Low, FALCON.

Socks, FALCON.  Babies, APC Vintage dress and bra.  Model: Valery Kaufman at Elite Paris.  Hairstyle: Seb Bascle at the Calliste agency.  Make-up: Lloyd Simmond of Agence Carole.  Manicure: Nickie Rhodes Hill.  Decor: Trish Stephenson at Clm.  Assistant director: Sophie Houdré.  Producer: Claire Luke at Graft.
Socks, FALCON.  Babies, APC Vintage dress and bra.  Model: Valery Kaufman at Elite Paris.  Hairstyle: Seb Bascle at the Calliste agency.  Make-up: Lloyd Simmond of Agence Carole.  Manicure: Nickie Rhodes Hill.  Decor: Trish Stephenson at Clm.  Assistant director: Sophie Houdré.  Producer: Claire Luke at Graft.

Socks, FALCON. Babies, APC Vintage dress and bra. Model: Valery Kaufman at Elite Paris. Hairstyle: Seb Bascle at the Calliste agency. Make-up: Lloyd Simmond of Agence Carole. Manicure: Nickie Rhodes Hill. Decor: Trish Stephenson at Clm. Assistant director: Sophie Houdré. Producer: Claire Luke at Graft.

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