For this self-portrait, Paula Rego used her storytelling prowess to create a collaged, abstract artwork to explore her identity. Preparatory sketches and fragments of her children’s drawings are included in the work, along with painted elements such as flowers and a tailor’s mannequin, combining to produce a cryptic, yet compelling piece. Rego worked extensively in collage until the 1980s, when she began painting directly onto canvas in acrylics.
Self-portrait in Red
Date of work
Original: Ink on paper, 297 × 422 mm, Tate. Presented by the artist 1989
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.