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This article is taken from PN Review 207, Volume 39 Number 1, September - October 2012.

Paula Rego's Balzac Owen Lowery
Paula Rego, Balzac and Other Stories, Marlborough Gallery of Fine Art, London, 29 May-30 June 2012

Collaboration between literature, story-telling and art is the theme of T.G. Rosenthal's introduction to Paula Rego's Balzac and Other Stories at the Marlborough Gallery, a relationship reflected by the description of the event as '[an] exhibition to celebrate the publication of the second edition of Rosenthal's Paula Rego: The Complete Graphic Work'.1 Rosenthal's revised and extended edition needs no justification. As he points out, nearly a decade has passed since the original edition of 2003, during which Rego has worked with great energy and commitment. What Rosenthal does feel needs justification is Rego's interest in the narrative aspect of her art, in story-telling, the belief that, as she says: 'Every picture tells a story as they say. Otherwise there's no point'.2

Rosenthal's introduction to the exhibition catalogue indicates that he might agree with Rego's admission, though, as he points out, Paula Rego's art, including the seven large pastels, fifteen etchings, and nine lithographs shown here, does far more than tell a story. For him, Rego's work re-interprets, re-invents, in the manner of Goya, or Franz Liszt. The artist's imagination is part of the relationship between art and story-telling.

As an example, Rosenthal cites the illustrations Rego provided for the 1992 edition of Peter Pan, including an image of Wendy 'standing and stirring a bloody pot full of aborted foetuses'. Rosenthal might also have mentioned the Gulbenkian Foundation-supported work of ...


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