Monday, July 01, 2019

More of the same

Paula Rego: Death of the Virgin (image from here)
In an exhibition like the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition it is inevitable to encounter works by familiar artists, either by Academicians themselves, or Honorary Academicians, or by familiar invited artists.  Often the reaction is - oh, there's another one by so-and-so, and the feeling is of a so-what-ish kind.  Of course this doesn't mean that the work is not good; simply that a previous example struck a more positive response.  Indeed I had that reaction to the Anselm Kiefer painting in this year's exhibition.
Paula Rego: Agony in the Garden (image from here)
Four paintings by Paula Rego, however, did affect me greatly, despite my having seen so many of her similar works before.
Paula Rego: Deposition (image from here)
What hits me first is the substance.  They not only are full of dimension, the paintings carry so much within them.  The subtle use of materials gives on the one hand a quality of fabric in the dresses that I can feel: a stiffness of stuff, as if those dresses are the armour, support for the tender flesh within them.  And on the other, the delicate but firm pencil lines outlining such as the ears, the curls of loose hair signal that tenderness.
Paula Rego: The Visitation (image from here)
There is so much here that I looked and looked for some considerable time, and felt so many reactions from exhilaration through joy to disquiet.  For me these four are in a class of their own, so I shall cover the other paintings which drew my attention in a separate post.


  1. Yeah, no escaping the drama here. I'd spend time looking too I'm sure. An interesting observation this: "quality of fabric in the dresses that I can feel: a stiffness of stuff, as if those dresses are the armour, support for the tender flesh within them." I can see that even from the photos, this projection of armor.

    1. Sheila, I'm glad that you were drawn even to these small reproductions. Rego's women are such complex characters, I love her work.

  2. This is great Art with a capital A, and it's so wonderful seeing how Rego is constantly developing. Thank you for sharing these with us. I know I will keep on coming back to this post to look and think, and basically, enjoy.

    Seeing these makes me regret not having been to see the exhibition because I would have loved to see them in the flesh. Last time we visited the Summer Exhibition I got so overwhelmed by the sheer number of exhibits, I felt it was too much and have not been back since. I need to learn to concentrate on just a few pieces and not allow the sheer volume of work overwhelm me.

    1. Eirene I so agree about being easily overwhelmed by the number, diversity, and proximity of all the works. Years ago when I worked in London I used to visit multiple times, but now I have learned to concentrate only on what catches my eye. I am also becoming increasingly picky - partly because of not being comfortable when I stand still.
      I don't know if the Rego paintings are recent, but they certainly are powerful. Her current retrospective Obedience and Defiance is on at the Milton Keynes gallery until 22 September.