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Visual tales of the beautiful grotesque

A new chapter of work by story painter Paula Rego

Visual tales of the beautiful grotesque

January 17 2013
Charlotte Abrahams

Fans of Paula Rego’s distinctive, often darkly surreal work will be delighted to hear that, on Friday January 25, a fascinating collection of the artist’s new paintings and hand-coloured etchings will be exhibited at the Marlborough Fine Art Gallery in London.

Paula Rego has always been a painter of stories and the six large-scale pastel drawings that form the centrepiece – and title – of this exhibition are no exception. The story in question is Alexandre Herculano’s 19th-century tale The Goat-Footed Lady, Romance of a Minstrel, a powerful and captivating narrative originally dating back to the 11th century. Rego has said that her art deals with “the beautiful grotesque”, and the figures that populate her visual retelling of this strange story are certainly that. Distorted into unnatural ugliness, they remain all too disturbingly human.

The Goat-Feet Lady series (which was first shown last year in collaboration with Portuguese artist Adriana Molder at the Casa das Historias Paula Rego in Cascais, Portugal) will be displayed alongside eight new paintings inspired by a range of written works, including Hilaire Belloc’s poem Do you remember an Inn, Miranda?. Accompanying them, rather excitingly, will be the sculptural maquette for the artist’s most recent painting, The Playground. Made from found objects, Rego’s maquettes are like 3-D sketches, and this is the first time she has allowed one to go on show.

In addition, there will be at least two (possibly as many as six) of Rego’s etchings for sale from £18,000, including Goat Girl II (pictured). Made several years ago at the Royal College of Art but now being hand-coloured, each of these etchings is a unique and rather beautiful artwork.