This piece is from Paula Rego’s 1989 series of etching and aquatint prints, Nursery Rhymes
. She brings the nonsense rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle to life, and we can spot the cat playing the fiddle, the cow jumping over the moon, the little dog laughing and the dish and spoon, running away together. Whilst at first glance it appears to be a merry scene, faithful to the original rhyme, Rego has added an extra figure. A girl is dancing in the bottom left of the piece, but she looks down, her face entirely devoid of the almost feverish joy of the cat, dog and cow. This changes the feel of the piece entirely, giving it an unsettling air.
Hey Diddle Diddle, from the series 'Nursery Rhymes'
Date of work
Original: Etching and aquatint22,6 x 21,3 cmCollection Ostrich Arts Ltd (PR)© Paula Rego
Paula Rego was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1935 and has travelled between London and Portugal throughout her life. She studied painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and throughout her career she has revolutionised the way in which women are represented, playing a key role in redefining figurative art in the UK and internationally. Her early paintings in Portugal were semi-abstract, sometimes applied to violent or political subjects that revealed a love of story-telling that had been awakened in her as a child by folk-tales related by a great-aunt. She is drawn to subjects that are well known, and takes her imagery from sources as varied as Peter Pan and Mary Magdalene. Her work is part of many public collections, including Tate’s collection.