The iconic painting Angel is of enormous significance in Paula Rego’s artistic production, encapsulating her entire artistic programme. Indeed, the painter herself confessed that this was the work she would like to take with her on her last journey. Though not explicitly a self-portrait, the work is, in the words of the curator Helena de Freitas, ‘a strong, radiant image which identifies with the interventionist sense of the artist’s work: between the sword and the sponge, protection and revenge, punishment and forgiveness.’
In addition to Angel, a work dating from 1998, the Gulbenkian Foundation has also acquired for the CAM Collection another important work by the artist, Turkish Bath, from 1960, on the back of which there is a nude portrait of Paula Rego by Victor Willing, her husband, where the artist, right at the start of her career and with remarkable foresight, makes a subtle, very highly personal and assertive connection to one of the themes currently shaking the art world, both in Portugal and abroad, regarding feminism and the representation of women.
Due to their potential for exhibition and general media interest, these works complement, in a very unique way, the group of works by Paula Rego at the CAM, which consists of 35 works including paintings, drawings and prints. With this acquisition, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation consolidates its international position as the private institution with the largest and most significant collection of Paula Rego’s work, reinforcing the deep historical, professional and emotional ties that have bound the artist to the institution since she was a Gulbenkian grant holder in the 1960s.
‘It is a great joy to know that two of my most important paintings will live in the Gulbenkian,’ the artist said after the acquisition of the works was confirmed. ‘The Gulbenkian supported me when I most needed support. I know they will take care of my angel and I hope it brings them the luck and comfort they deserve.’
This acquisition comes at a very particular moment in Paula Rego’s artistic life and at a decisive stage in her international consecration, following great success and media interest in her exhibition in Paris (Orangerie, 2018-2019), and in the course of her most important exhibition tour, recently inaugurated at the Tate Britain (2021) and continuing on to the Kunstmuseum Den Haag and the Museo Picasso Málaga, both leading museum institutions.