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18th January 2021
New Acquisitions: Paula Rego

The Derek Williams Trust has acquired two works by Paula Rego, Visitation (pictured) and Death of the Virgin, from the artist’s 2002 Virgin Mary series.

Rego is one of the UK’s foremost figurative artists, foregrounding feminism and women’s rights in her large-scale pastels. She uses powerful, often surreal imagery to explore subjects such as war, oppression, sexuality and power through the experience of women.

In 2002, Rego was commissioned to make a series for the chapel of the Palácio de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal, the city where she was born. The Virgin Mary series comprises twelve images, eight of which were installed in the chapel.

Visitation and Death of the Virgin depict subjects familiar in Christian art: the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus. However, Rego’s relationship with faith is inseparable from her experience in Portugal under a fascist regime which used religion to co-opt the female body and curb the rights of women. These resulting images, which show contemporary figures in anonymous spaces, are earthly and ambiguous. Rego challenges us to view Mary, an icon of Christianity, through the lived experience of women everywhere.