Paula Rego, The Family, 1988

Rego’s paintings often bring more questions than answers. She grew up in a household dominated by women and her scenes are of the complex relationships between women who occupy domestic spaces. Suzie Mackenzie writes that “…her subject is the apparently familiar – the bourgeois, the domestic, family relations – characters we should recognise, mothers and daughters, little girls with their dogs. But somehow now metamorphosed into the grotesque, into what could be called the everyday fantastic. It is probably fair to say that most of her pictures dramatise desire and guilt, those two psychological paradigms, but desire for what and guilt about what? Her figures hold on to their secrets…”
In this painting we wonder whether the man is being helped with his clothing or whether he will be harmed. The cabinet in the corner is painted with the story of St. George slaying the dragon – does it indicate that one of the figures will be slain? Just under the St. George painting is an illustration of Aesop’s fable ‘The Fox and the Stork,’ which is about following the golden rule – is Rego telling us that this man has done something wrong and the women will exact their revenge?

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