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The Kid Should See This

How did Paula Rego decide to become an artist?

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Paula Rego was born in Lisbon in Portugal in 1935. It was a dark and dangerous time. The prime minister of Portugal and his secret police punished anyone who stepped out of line or said the wrong thing. Paula grew up feeling very afraid.

“She wasn’t very chatty but she loved to listen to stories. When she was very young Paula lived with her grandmother who told her fairy tales and folklore about bad things happening to powerless people and of good fighting against evil. These other worlds were an escape. They helped Paula to make sense of what was happening around her.”

Paula Rego’s work is fueled by imagination, storytelling, and the perseverance of her own artistic vision. This Tate Kids video, Becoming an Artist: Paula Rego, shares how Rego came to paint her symbolism-filled scenes, often subversive and unflinching commentaries on culture, politics, and women’s experiences.

paula rego in school

“Paula is known around the world for her brave and personal artworks. She still loves fairy tales, from witches and skeletons to giant spiders. Her work is dreamlike and encourages us to use our imagination. Many of her works use animals like rabbits, monkeys, and bears to show difficult feelings or complicated relationships. Like most great art, we can recognize emotions we feel in real life in many of Paula Rego’s works.”

paula rego's work
Watch this instructive Tate video next: How to Draw Like Paula Rego. It features artist Katy Papineau.

Katy Papineau

Previously from the Tate:
• How did Etel Adnan decide to become an artist?
• How did Yinka Shonibare become an artist?
• Sonia Boyce, Barbara Hepworth, Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keefe, and Dayanita Singh: 5 Women Artists’ Stories

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