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An inspiring International Women’s Day

8 March 2013 by Lisa

Etching of a woman having a 'back street' abortion

Etchingsfrom Paula Rego’s abortion series.

Happy International Women’s Day! This day is the perfect time to stop and think about which women might be inspiring to you. Outside of family and friends, one person who I find inspiring is Portuguese artist Paula Rego. Two years ago I visited her dedicated museum ‘Casa das Histórias’ (‘House of Stories’) and was blown away by her work. It spans from etchings to installations to dramatic, large-scale paintings.

I admire her (and her work) as she is not afraid to show the experiences of women, especially exploring subjects which are often considered ‘difficult’ or controversial. You also get an idea of her personal experiences too, which I also find inspiring as I think she must be quite brave to expose her feelings in this way. Her work often has a sense of fear running through it – a feeling she has recently admitted is still a constant in her everyday life. 

We are lucky enough to have several Paula Rego works in the Walker Art Gallery’s collections. Currently on display are three etchings from Rego’s abortion series; ‘Untitled, 5, 7 and 8′. Two of which are pictured above. These works were part of Rego’s response to Portugal’s rejection of the legalisation of abortion in 1998. The laws have since been changed. 

The Walker has quite a strong history of collecting work by female artists, having started with a painting called ‘Elaine’ by Sophie Anderson in 1871. In the 1950s and 1960s the Walker bought over 90 works by women artists, 57 of which were prints. Collecting work be female artists is now a strong focus for our curators.

Curator Lucy Gardner told me: “Our most recent acquisitions are two pieces by up and coming artist Rachael Goodyear, whose original vision and unique style stand out in contemporary practice today. We are very pleased to be able to show such powerful pieces.”

You can see work by Rego and Goodyear along with work by other female artists such as Yoko Ono, Louise Bourgeois and Lubaina Himid in our New Works at the Walker exhibition.

Etching of a woman with her head bowed.

‘In the Comfort of the Bonnet’ by Paula Rego.

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