Written by Jock Johnston
Paula Rego, Crumpled, 2002, Lithograph on paper Pallant House Gallery (The Golder - Thompson Gift, 2007), © The Artist
Arguably one of the most important British figurative artists, Rego was born in Portugal in 1935. A new museum dedicated to her life and work called simply the 'House of Stories' opened in September 2009 in Cascais, the seaside village near Lisbon where she was born. It is an apt title for a gallery celebrating the most powerful narrative painter of her generation, who was married to the British artist Victor Willing.
Drawing on the rich imagery of Classical mythology, European folk-fairy tales, Roman Catholicism and her own turbulent past, Rego fills her work with characters and incidents as vivid and as potently complex as any to be found in a nineteenth-century novel. It is little wonder that she could, and did, turn her hand to producing the suite of 25 extraordinary lithographs in illustration, or rather in enactment, of the dramatic incidents in Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre'.
Through the Golder-Thompson Gift, Pallant HouseGallery now has one of these lithographs, which were printed by the Curwen Studios: 'Crumpled' presents the moment when Jane is imprisoned in the red room - prostrate but unbowed. In Jane's words:"Mrs Abbot, impatient of my now frantic anguish and wild sobs, abruptly thrust me back and locked me in; without farther parley. I heard her sweeping away and soon after she was gone. I suppose I had a species of fit: unconsciousness closed the scene."