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<i>Shutterstock</i><br/>Paula Rego settled in London in 1972. Tate Britain staged the largest ever retrospective of Rego's work in 2021.
Paula Rego settled in London in 1972. Tate Britain staged the largest ever retrospective of Rego's work in 2021.

Lianne Kolirin, CNN

Paula Rego, the acclaimed Portuguese-born British artist, has died at age 87.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the Victoria Miro gallery, which exhibits some of Rego’s work, wrote: “It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of the Portuguese-born, British artist Dame Paula Rego at the age of 87.

“She died peacefully this morning, after a short illness, at home in North London, surrounded by her family. Our heartfelt thoughts are with them.”

Rego was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1935 during the dictatorship of António de Oliveira Salazar. According to biographical details on the Tate website, her parents were anti-fascist Anglophiles who enrolled her in a finishing school in England when she was 16.

She went on to study painting at the Slade School of Fine Art in London in the 1950s, where she met fellow painting student Victor Willing, whom she married. The family traveled between the two countries and settled in London in 1972, where she lived and worked until her death.

Creating unsettling, magical work that drew on politics, myths and folktales, Rego was considered “one of Europe’s most influential contemporary figurative artists,” according to the Royal Academy.

In 2009, the Casa Das Histórias Paula Rego, a museum dedicated to her work, opened in the seaside town of Cascais, just outside Lisbon.

And a year later, she was made a Dame of the British Empire for services to the arts.

The largest and most comprehensive retrospective of her work to date began last year at Tate Britain, traveling to Kunstmuseum Den Haag in the Netherlands and Museo Picasso Málaga, Spain.

According to Tate’s website, “the exhibition tells the story of this artist’s remarkable life, highlighting the personal nature of much of her work and the socio-political context in which it is rooted.”

It features more than 100 works including collage, paintings, large-scale pastels, drawings and etchings, from the 1950s to the 2000s.

Theater designer Grace Smart, the artist’s granddaughter, tweeted: “Paula Rego was a fantastic and world changing artist, and grandma. She taught us how to sew, draw, put on eyeliner, and tell uncomfortable stories.

“It’s an honour to have been a small part of her work, and to have her as such a huge part of my life.

“It’s a sad day for many.”

Renowned Sunday Times art critic Waldemar Januszczak tweeted: “So sad. RIP Paula Rego. She was the stand out star of this year’s Venice Biennale. Created one of the most powerful bodies of work of the post war era. Always did it her way. A true great.”

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