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Dame Paula Rego

Dame Paula Rego (b. 1935), The Wild Duck 1990, etching with aquatint, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Presented by the Art Fund (2015) © Paula Rego

Wild Duck

This print was inspired by Ibsen’s play of the same name. Rego often takes nursery rhymes, fairy tales and Portuguese folk tales as her inspiration. This print was a commission from the Art Fund and presented to RAGM in 2015. Paul Coldwell assisted Rego with the printing process for this artwork and his short film about Paula and this particular artwork can be viewed below.

Paula Rego, The Bride’s Secret Diary, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Rugby Borough Council, © Paula Rego


Dame Paula Rego  b.1935, The Bride's Secret Diary, 1981,Paper, collage and acrylic on canvas, Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Presented by the Art Fund, 2015

Portuguese artist Paula Rego grew up drawing alongside her mother who was also a talented artist. She attended the Slade School of Art (1952-1956), which at the time was run by William Coldstream (1908- 1987). Among her peers were fellow artists Michael Andrews (1928- 1995), Craigie Aitchison (1926- 2009), and her future husband Victor Willing (1928- 1988). Rego uses the traditional notion of storytelling to expose and interrogate the intricacies of human behaviour. The protagonists, most often women, face an inner turmoil, torn between the knowledge of how they are expected to behave and an inner rebellion. Rego’s collaging process always starts with drawing, her ideas often derived from personal experience. Then, in a violent act of destruction, she cuts up the drawings and slowly repositions the isolated fragments to piece together a narrative on the canvas. As with many of her collages, The Brides Secret Diary deliberately disrupts any sense of order.

This large canvas was one of the late collages that Rego made in her Crouch End studio before she moved to Berry Street. It was made at the same time as two other collages: The Assassins and Annunciation; and thanks to an introduction from fellow artist Patrick Caulfield, Robert McPherson visited her Crouch End Studio, saw The Bride’s Secret Diary and offered her a show at Air Gallery. It was that show, together with friend and confidant João Penalva’s (b.1949) advice that caused a big change in her work. She stopped making collages and embarked on the monkey pictures which are now so famous.

The Bride’s secret Diary was originally thought to be inspired by the tragic story of Inês de Castro (1325 – 1355), the posthumously-recognized wife of King Peter I of Portugal. The romance between King Peter and de Castro was forbidden and she was murdered. King Peter sought revenge on her killers and reversing the gravediggers work, he exhumed her body to be reunited with his true love. When discussing The Bride’s Secret Diary in conversation recently, Rego has said that the story is not about Inês de Castro and is instead entirely based on personal experience. In other words it forms part of her personal story, a secret diary in which she can pour out her heart about her (then) upcoming marriage and confess her sins. It is because of this wholly personal connection to the artwork that Rego describes The bride’s Secret Diary as one of the few collages of this period that she actually likes.