Paula Figueiroa Rego, GCSE, (born 1935) is a Portuguese painter, illustrator and printmaker.
Rego was born in Lisbon within a wealthy family, during Salazarīs regime, which would be a later influence in her malicious, sinister and dominating characters. Rego was sent to St Julian's School, Carcavelos, Portugal before studying at the Slade School of Art where she met the artist Victor Willing, whom she eventually married. The two divided their time between Portugal and England until 1975, when they moved to England permanently. In 1988, Willing died after suffering for some years from multiple sclerosis. Mother-in-law to Ron Mueck whose career she influenced. Rego was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1989 and was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Letters honoris causa by Oxford University in June 2005.
Her early work, dating from the 60s and 70s, is neo-dadaist or informal in style. Using mixed media with collage and painting, she played with childish, fetishistic or traumatic images, which would be essential in her mature style. She became part of the London Group, exhibiting with fellow artists including David Hockney and R. B. Kitaj. Rego eventually developed an illustrative and more figurative style, related to Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud but with a strong influence of Beatrix Potter books and fairy tales.
Her work often gives a sinister edge to storybook imagery, emphasizing malicious domination or the subversion of natural order. She deals with social realities that are polemic, an example being her important Triptych (1998) on the subject of abortion, now in the collection of Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. Rego's style is often compared to cartoon illustration. As in cartoons, animals are often depicted in human roles and situations. Later work adopts a more realistic style, but sometimes keeps the animal references the Dog Woman series of the 1990s, for example, is a set of pastel pictures depicting women in a variety of dog-like poses (on all fours, baying at the moon, and so on).
Rego has also painted a portrait of Germaine Greer, which is in the National Portrait Gallery in London, as well as the official presidency portrait of Jorge Sampaio.