The inspiration for this painting was a photograph Paula Rego saw in the newspaper, taken during the Iraq war in 2003. It showed a screaming girl in a white dress running from an explosion, while a woman in the background held her baby stoically. In keeping with her other works exploring the violence of traditional folktales, Rego transforms the original image into a darkly troubling fairytale vision, casting the humans in the photograph as rabbits and other hybrid creatures. Hope is injected through the figure of Rego’s schoolteacher Miss Cook in the painting’s bottom right corner, who the artist credits as saving a group of people in the piece.
Date of work
Original: Pastel on paper on aluminium, Unconfirmed: 1600 × 1200 mm, Tate. Presented by the artist (Building the Tate Collection) 2005 © 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.