The Abortion Pastels, Paula Rego
May 21, 2018 / womensartblog
In 1998 Portuguese born artist Paula Rego created a series of work entitled Untitled. The Abortion Pastels. Rego created her work in response to a referendum to legalise abortion in Portugal, which was very narrowly defeated. Each canvas depicted the image of a woman undergoing an unsafe abortion.
Rego was born in Portugal in 1935, into what she describes as a repressive, middle-class Portuguese life in which women were highly encouraged to do nothing, while working-class women were forced to do everything. The painter recalls girlhood as a time of learning obedience to men, in addition to secretive and confused messages about puberty, sexual abstention and female propriety. Subsequently, after leaving 1950’s, then fascist Portugal, described by her father as a ‘killer society for women’, to attend London’s Slade School of Fine Art, Rego recollected an era including coerced sex leading to secretive and often tortuous back street abortions. In turn, her Abortion series would be both inspired by her own experiences and that of her fellow female students and what she had witnessed growing up around the small Portuguese villages of her formative years.