Paula Rego ★★★★★ Tate Britain | Jul 7 - Oct 24, 2021


This Paula Rego retrospective is a simply phenomenal exhibition. She is, perhaps, not as well known as she should be – if you've been to the café at the National Gallery you may not have realised that the murals there are by Rego. Here, in Tate Britain, we have over one hundred pieces from sixty years arranged through eleven galleries, which show the huge range of her work. Rego's fierce anti-fascism frequently manifests itself as does her sociopolitical feminism; women are frequently depicted as coerced and abused by the system, notably in the Dog Woman series of pictures. She uses the full range of media whilst seemingly reinventing figurative painting. Many works have never been seen in Britain before; two which we found particularly striking were The Dance (1988) featuring her husband and Cast of Characters from Snow White (1996). The latter with its hint of cruelty behind the lightheartedness offers a nod towards Bruegel or Hogarth. Elements of caricature morph into nightmares as each room is filled with jaw-dropping images. The Artist in Her Studio (1993) shows Rego in her milieu, and what a fabulous milieu it is. Rego's darker side is certainly not ignored; the torture many of the figures suffer is palpable but the pictures remain beautiful in themselves. The fight to allow abortion in Portugal is close to the artist's heart and she hits the mark accurately. Art has often been used simply as a political tool but great art transcends that. Paula Rego creates great art.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Image: Paula Rego The Dance 1988. Tate © Paula Rego

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