The cartoonish format of Paula Rego’s Red Monkey
series is in stark contrast to the dark subject matter of the paintings themselves. Based on a toy theatre and its characters as remembered by Rego’s husband, the paintings explore complex relationships and emotions, and involve spite, revenge and domestic violence. Here, Red Monkey offers Bear (in sunglasses, comically facing the viewer) a twisted gesture of peace – a poisoned dove. Rego remarked that it was easier to show animals doing terrible things than people.
Red Monkey Offers Bear a Poisoned Dove
Date of work
Original: Pastel on paper mounted on aluminium1200 x 1600 mmCollection 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.