Portuguese painter who broke boundaries at the Slade School of Art and was nominated for the Turner prize in her 50s
o look over Paula Rego's body of work is to look over the landscape of women's experience: desire, abortion, rape, female circumcision, childbirth, family relationships, dominating and being dominated by men; her masculine female figures are sometimes lonely, but usually fierce and often bent on revenge. Success came relatively late in life – a graduate of the Slade School of Art at a time when female artists were taught how to support and inspire their "superior" male artist partners ("women were good either for going to bed with or making good wives – particularly if they came with their own money and could support the men".)
Rego, now 75, was in her 40s before her first big solo exhibition, and in her 50s when she was nominated for the Turner prize. Although she was made a dame last year, Rego was born in Portugal and in 2009, Paula Rego – House of Stories, a gallery dedicated to housing her work, opened in Portugal. Germaine Greer, whose portrait by Rego hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, says, "No other artist has ever come close to capturing Rego's sense of the phantasmagoria that is female reality."