• 1984
  • Canvas
  • Acrylic paint
  • Inv. 86P589

Paula Rego

The Vivian Girls as Windmills

The Vivian Girls as Windmills forms part of Paula Rego’s series of paintings entitled Vivian Girls, dated 1984, and inspired by The Realms of the Unreal, by Henry Darger. This narrative develops around seven princesses, daughters of Robert Vivian, enslaved and tortured by soldiers. Darger was part of the phenomenon known as Outsider Art or Art Brut, and Paula Rego first came into contact with the work of the North American artist in 1979, when she visited the Outsiders exhibition in the Hayward Gallery, in London. Here, one of the curators of this exhibition, Victor Musgrave, showed her this story by the unknown artist.

As the artist herself noted, the Vivian Girls were based on Darger’s girls, but have nothing to do with his stories. However, the various volumes that make up The Realms correspond to literary fantasies, fairy tales, much like the universe presented by Rego: a universe of fear personified on canvas. In this sense, contact with the work of French artist Jean Dubuffet (in 1959) fostered her interest in finding a way to create art that provoked the invention of parallel worlds, the metamorphosis of the human body, related more to a mental and psychological concept, distanced from the artistic conventions of art schools, museums and galleries.

Abandoning the process of collage of previously sketched drawings, Rego moved on to draw with acrylic on paper, as is the case with The Vivian Girls as Windmills. This painting offers a possible narrative or narratives, if we keep in mind the considerable number of characters in its composition and the anarchic distribution of the brightly coloured figures. There is no order on the painted surface, even though it is completely covered. Paula Rego presents the windmills in the form of girls, who dance, overlapping and wrapping around each other. The windmills form the setting of this Rego-esque universe, in which the figures, terrified in their theatrical positions, perform in the face of an atypical time and space.





January 2010

Arte Contemporáneo Portugués
Lisboa, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Centro de Arte Moderna, 1987
Exhibition catalogue
Heimo Zobernig e a Colecção do Centro de Arte Moderna da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian/ Heimo Zobernig and the Collection of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Modern Art Centre; Heimo Zobernig and the Tate Colllection/ Heimo Zobernig e a Colecção da Tate
Lisboa/ St. Ives, 2009
Exhibition catalogue
Arte Contemporáneo Portugués
Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Curator: CAM/FCG
February to March 1987
Madrid, Museo Espanõl de Arte Contemporáneo
Paula Rego
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Rainha Sofia
25 September to 30 December 2007
MNCARS, Madrid
Heimo Zobernig e a Colecção do Centro de Arte Moderna da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Curator: Jürgen Bock
11 February to 31 August 2009
Centro de Arte Moderna
Updated on 23 january 2015

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