Rare chance to see Dame Paula Rego’s drawings for paintings at new Pallant House Gallery exhibition


Pallant House Gallery is set to present a rare opportunity to see Dame Paula Rego’s preparatory drawings for her paintings at an exhibition this autumn.

The drawings are said to  provide an insight into her remarkable draughtsmanship and the development of her ideas.

The exhibition, drawn from her own studio collection and organised in association with the artist and Marlborough Fine Art, features drawings from the 80s and 90s including studies for some of her most famous works.

The exhibition, which is on from 30 September until 28 January 2018, will include previously unseen studies and drawings and provide a new understanding of the work of one of Britain and Portugal’s most loved figurative artists. It coincides with an exhibition of Rego’s recent paintings at the Jerwood Gallery in Hastings.

Rego, born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1935, has a career that spans over half a century and since her studies at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, has travelled consistently between the two countries.

Using folklore and fairy tales, both personally constructed and widely known, Rego’s work builds narratives of both trouble and fantasy, often leaving reality behind in favour of a religious fervour.

Judgement and despair and an underlying, sometimes sinister, sexuality preoccupy the characters in Paula Rego’s drawings from the late 80s and early 90s.

Mostly preparatory sketches for larger works, her characterisations are by no means modest and all have been executed in a way that conjures up her final, painted compositions. Identifiable sketches include images of what eventually became her 1998 abortion series and the menacing arrangement of relatives, which would produce her seminal work, The Family.

This collection of drawings is dominated by female archetypes, from the mother to the lover, to the devout impressions of religious servitude; her depictions of female experience coupled with her personal familiarity of Jungian psychology are clearly played out across the pages of her work.

Pallant House Gallery has one of the most significant public collections of works by Rego’s husband Victor Willing.

To accompany the exhibition, the gallery has organised a range of events which will help visitors gain a deeper understanding of Rego’s life and work.

These include a screening of Paula Rego: Secrets and Stories, a documentary directed by Rego’s son, Nick Willing on 16 November; a guided tour of the exhibition by gallery guide Michaela Cranmer on 19 January 2018; and a talk on Rego’s drawing practice given by Colin Wiggins, a curator at the National Gallery, London on 25 January.

Picture: Paula Rego, Boys Dancing with Animals, 2005, Private Collection © Paula Rego, courtesy Marlborough Fine Art

Paula Rego: The Sketchbooks is on display in the historic townhouse of Pallant House Gallery from 30 September 2017 – 28 January 2018.

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Carl Eldridge
Carl Eldridge is a hugely experienced journalist who has worked on local and national newspapers, magazines and written for websites over the past 30 years. He lives in Bognor Regis with his wife and son. And he is a life-long Arsenal fan.