Artist Paula Rego, known for her deeply rooted and disturbing work, dies aged 87 | Paula Rego

Paula Rego, the internationally acclaimed Portuguese-born British artist known for her deeply rooted and disturbing work, has died aged 87.

The Victoria Miro gallery announced Rego’s death on Wednesday, saying: “She passed away peacefully this morning, after a short illness, at home in North London, surrounded by her family. Our sincere thoughts are with them.”

It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of the Portuguese-born British artist Dame Paula Rego at the age of 87. She passed away peacefully this morning, after a short illness, at home in north London, surrounded by her family. Our sincere thoughts are with them. pic.twitter.com/hFXdIZETtb

— Victoria Miro (@victoriamiro) June 8, 2022

The painter, who recently had a retrospective at the Tate Britain, rose to prominence after exhibiting with David Hockney at the London Group in the 1960s. In the years that followed, her career focused on women’s rights, and abortion in particular.

Raised in a privileged family in Portugal under Salazar’s fascist dictatorship, Rego was fascinated by fairy tales and her political paintings encompassed themes of power, property, youth and sexual transgression.

In a 2019 interview with The Guardian, Rego, who had previously spoken about her own abortions, said that “making abortion illegal forces women into the slum solution”.

She added: “I do what I can with my job, but both men and women have to be up to it. It also affects men. You’re not going to get pregnant on your own, are you?’

Rego was born in Lisbon in 1935 to a father who worked as an electronics engineer and a mother who studied art but never practiced as an artist.

Best known for her paintings, pastels and prints, Rego became the first associate artist at the National Gallery, cementing her position as one of Britain’s greatest living painters and figurative artists worldwide.

Her work is valued in the millions, a film has been made about her, and a gallery called House of Stories: Paula Rego, in a coastal town of Cascais outside Lisbon, is one of the few dedicated to a living artist. But it wasn’t until 1987 that Rego had her first major exhibition in Britain.

Rego studied at the Slade School of Fine Art with Lucian Freud at the age of 17 and met artist Victor Willing, who later became her husband. Willing was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1966 and died in 1988. A year later, Rego was nominated for the Turner Prize.

Remembering her late husband, Rego previously told The Guardian: “Grief is always there, it doesn’t get any easier. I’ve often thought about falling in love again, but that’s nobody’s business.”

She leaves behind three children, who they raised in Ericeira and later in London.

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