Paula Rego- Old meets new


Today I visited Casa das Historias Paula Rego in Cascais by Lisbon, a museum dedicated to Portuguese born (1935) artist Paula Rego. I feel very lucky to be here ,as she is one of the artists mentioned in this chapter of “Intimacy” of the course.

She studied at the Slade School of Fine Arts in London 1952-56, and divided her time between London and Portugal, and has exhibited widely internationally. In Portugal she is definitely one of the most known contemporary artists. Last weekend in Porto, I had a peek in the Art section of a bookstore and found no less than 5 books about Paula Rego’s works.

The building of the museum is very impressive- it looks huge, like a massive adobe building with two towers, reminding me of adobe villages in New Mexico, or some Incan temples. It is actually concrete, just painted an adobe red, with a big green lawn around. I was surprised how small the museum felt inside. The museum has a very vast collection of Paula Rego’s paintings, most of which have been donated or lend by the artist herself, but there is only a small amount on display at a time.

The name of the museum “Casa das Historias”- the house of stories seems very fitting. Every painting and etching tell intricate stories of moral and social dramas or  about human relationships, with elements of fantasy and imagination. The current exhibition is called “Old meets new” and is based on stories from the novels Cousin Bazilio (1878) and The relic (1887) by the Portuguese author Paula Rego admires the most: Eca de Querios (1845-1900). The artists recreates the scenes with models in her studio, develops backgrounds and dresses them up, and then paints the scenes.

Most of her works were huge drawings on paper mounted on aluminium. Having just experimented with the mixed media exercise, I was discovering how Paula Rego does just that. Her huge drawings are often made with a mix of oil pastels, acrylics, bronze powder with dry goache, felt pens. She is also mixing different styles of drawing, like very detailed intricate patterns , with parts of the drawing just scribbled. Often there are surprising differences in sizes too, like far too huge a pattern on the wall paper , or some figures much bigger than others. There always seem to be a lot of different stories going on in every painting, with human drama in the center. “Cousin Bazilio” is a story about seduction and then being used, abandoned and then blackmailed. There are also often various creatures or fantasy animals present.


There was also a room dedicated to etchings from the series “Abortion” 1999-2000) and Female Genital Mutilation (2009) with strong dynamic scenes about these traumatical surgical themes. “Paula Rego has used the techniques of engraving and lithography in order to express her critical voice that is often biting and socially intervening”, describes curator Catarina Alfaro in the exhibition catalogue. These were very strong moving works, with horrified, painful expressions.


The human drama and relationships were very strongly expressed in every work, so it was very moving to see this exhibition. So much pain and misunderstanding. There seemed to be a dark undertone and often some sexual connotations in most stories. Technically, the perspective was often “off”, hands and feet were scribbled in a way that would have made me use an eraser 100 times, there seemed to be a speed and spontaneity to the drawings that contrast to the pictures of the artist carefully crafting and staging the scenes in her studio.

In the bookstore, I was surprised to see that the artist has illustrated several children’s stories and books in a humorous way.

Unfortunately it was not allowed to take pictures of the paintings, but only of the architecture. So these are some pictures of older painting and drawings from Paula Rego that are published on her website:


Fullsix portugal. 2016. Casadashistoriaspaularegocom. [Online]. [24 July 2016]. Available from:




Giorgio Griffa b.1936

This weekend I had the beautiful opportunity to visit an exhibition by the Italian artist Giorgio Griffa in the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal.


Here some information about the artist from the exhibition panels:1(..)


It was interesting for me to see painting as a performance , and the use of the raw unframed canvases. They had a lot of wrinkles from folding and I asked the staff if it is possible that the wrinkles were there since the 60’s. The canvases are folded again every time they are transported to a new exhibition, so the wrinkles are transforming and a little bit different every time.

The exhibition showed Griffa’s work in chronological order with the first canvases being mostly monochromatic with a simple repetitive and sometimes interrupted pattern of strokes or sponge impressions.

Later they had more colours and more intricate pattern. The arabesque became e recurring element, as well as numbers and some text.

I loved the beauty in the simple harmonious canvases . For me it was a remarquable study in mark-making. One art work looked very very similar to the very first exercise in mark-making of  the first chapter of Foundations drawing:


It was a revelation to see the beauty in this simplicity. I was also very touched by the quotation of Griffa here above: “the difference between colour and line is illusory because it depends only upon the width of the brush and how the brush is applied to the canvas.”

A very interesting thought as I am now navigating between still life in tone and line.


Patrick Caulfield (1936–2005)

Patrick Caulfield (1936–2005)

Artnetcom. 2016. Artnetcom. [Online]. [11 July 2016]. Available from:

 “Patrick Caulfield was an English painter and printmaker associated with the Pop Art movement, known for bold images created in a strikingly graphic style. Employing references to Photorealism, his paintings are characterized by their flat planes of color and cartoonish black outlines, creating an uncomfortable ambiguity between the real and the illusionary.”


Tateorguk. 2016. Tate. [Online]. [11 July 2016]. Available from:

Patrick Caulfield was mentioned in the Drawing 1 coursebook in regard to positive/negative space. It is interesting to see how reduced the still life can be, now that I am in the middle of this “intimacy” chapter. I always look for too much detail and too complicated compositions.  Here the image is reduced to the shape, a bold outline and negative space. This will be an inspiration for simplicity .

Yann Kebbi b. 1987

Yann Kebbi is a French artist and illustrator, born in 1987. He lives and works in Paris. He has participated in many international exhibitions as well as creating illustrations for many major international newspapers and magazines like The New Yorker and GQ among many others. He has also published four books, the last one called AMERICANINE, A Haute Dog in New York, 2015.

The following illustrations are  made up til 2015 and downloaded from: Blogspotpt. 2016. Blogspotpt. [Online]. [11 July 2016]. Available from:

Some newer works after 2015, from, drawings or ink or etching:

Colourful, dynamic, scribbled, quick sketches with interesting angles and often surprising differences in proportion. A lot of humour! Shapes overlapping or transparent. What I mostly want to learn from looking at these illustrations is the free, flowing, spontaneous character, no fear of “mistakes” . I would like to learn to keep this unpolished, dynamic character of the drawings and will experiment in this direction.


Ginny Grayson b. 1967

I simply love to discover the drawings of artist Ginny Grayson. They have this unpolished, unfinished character that express everything so simply. The mood and expression of the  humans or animal becomes clear, although we rarely see a detailed face. Some have a line through the faces, others are covered by a mask, an arm casually thrown over or a scribble , others just leave the face off the margin of the paper.

Ginny Grayson was born in 1967 in New Zealand and is currently teaching in Melbourne.

Her website offers little detail about her life, but a very very impressive list of exhibitions she has taken part in.

These are some of her drawings from her website as well:

There is a slight melancholy , or poetic character to many images.

Ginny Grayson: “Of all my drawings, my preference has always been for the works that at first glance look more like a smudge or pile of dust – then the form emerges, slowly becoming recognisable. I have come to see this, as related to an instinctual desire for the subject to simultaneously be there and yet not there; to somehow be emerging and receding at the same time. Like many artists, I’m equally attracted to ‘abstraction’ and representation, and the tension that lies in the space between.” from the exhibition ‘Eyes still move when they’re closed…’ 2011.

Ginnygraysoncom. 2016. Ginnygraysoncom. [Online]. [11 July 2016]. Available from:

Edouard Vuillard (1868 – 1940)

Edouard Vuillard (1868 – 1940)

Joanne has recommended to take a look at Edouard Vuillards work for this “Intimacy” chapter. I will approach it with some short information situating the artist and some key points of his work that I found beautifully summarized on the following website:

Theartstoryorg. 2016. The Art Story. [Online]. [11 July 2016]. Available from:


Édouard Vuillard was a member of the Symbolist group known as Les Nabis (from the Hebrew and Arabic term for “prophets” and, by extension, the artist as the “seer” who reveals the invisible). However, he was less drawn to the mystical aspects of the group and more drawn to fashionable private venues where philosophical discussions about poetry, music, theatre, and the occult occurred. Because of his preference for the painting of interior and domestic scenes, he is often referred to as an “intimist,” along with his friend Pierre Bonnard. He executed some of these “intimist” works in small scale, while others were conceived on a much larger scale made for the interiors of the people who commissioned the work.

Key Ideas

For Vuillard, reticent by nature, the subject of the interior served as a symbol for the interior self, separate from the rest of the world. This is an aspect of a modernist idea – the notion that one’s personal viewpoint, a subjective view of reality, can gain insight into the truth.
As a Symbolist painter and part of the fin-de-siècle escape into the aesthetic, Vuillard employed flat patterns into which his figures were embedded in order to express both emotion and ideas. This kind of abstract painting evolved to communicate ideas not expressible through traditional painterly means. Color and shape could represent experiences that are difficult to express in words.
Although the Symbolists were, in general, anti-utilitarian (and more art-for-art’s sake), Vuillard created large-scale screens and murals that were architectural in conception (and part of the “applied arts”). These large-scale works – intended for the use of interior decoration – linked him to other modernists’ search for the “total work of art” (the Gesamtkunstwerk) that would help unify society, but updated it to function in contemporary interior spaces.


Images from: Articedu. 2016. Articedu. [Online]. [11 July 2016]. Available from:


30999_387581The Game of Checkers1899,Color lithograph on greyish-ivory laid paper, 374 x 282 mm (image); 446 x 347 mm (sheet)

81189_2007043Album Cover for Landscapes and Interiors1899,Color lithograph on grayish-ivory laid China paper, 523 x 402 mm (image); 607 x 442 mm (sheet)

28668_227420The Avenue, plate two from Landscapes and Interiors1899,Color lithograph on grayish-ivory China paper, 311 x 411 mm (image); 334 x 442 mm (sheet)

246286_3796157Interior with Pink Wallpaper III, plate seven from Landscapes and Interiors1899,Color lithograph on grayish-ivory China paper,342 x 275 mm (image); 374 x 300 mm (sheet)

5554_1649758Still Life with Jug and Knife1888/89,Oil on canvas,12 x 15 1/2 in. (30.5 x 39.4 cm)
Inscribed lower left: E. Vuillard

3408_1617023Oil on cardboard28 3/4 x 24 1/2 in. ,(76 x 62.4 cm),Signed and dated, l.l.: “E Vuillard 1905”

Some more paintings from the Exhibition in Musee D’Orsay , Paris, 2004- the vastest Edouard Vuillard exhibition to date with 280 exhibits dispalyed:

Musee-orsayfr. 2016. Musee-orsayfr. [Online]. [11 July 2016]. Available from:

0bd5acfb36Edouard Vuillard Autoportrait à la canne et au canotier

Le déjeuner, Le déjeuner du matin, en 1903
I008014Au lit, en 1891, huile sur toile
I069341Edouard Vuillard,Le placard à linge,vers 1893huile sur carton,H. 0.265 ; L. 0.215musée d’Orsay, Paris, France
tmp_50479cd09152f5f000bfdc161872a9b5Edouard Vuillard,La ravaudeuse, en 1891, huile sur cartonH. 0.27 ; L. 0.215, musée d’Orsay, Paris, France©photo musée d’Orsay


tmp_39e60296ec1ed35bf5de2393aa3e92e9Edouard Vuillard,Bouquet d’anémones blanches, vers 1909, peinture à la colle sur papier, contrecollé sur cartonH. 0.46 ; L. 0.56musée d’Orsay, Paris, France©photo musée d’Orsay / rmn

I018191Edouard Vuillard, Bouquet de soucis sur la cheminée, vers 1930pastel sur papier beigeH. 0.257 ; L. 0.326musée d’Orsay, Paris, France©photo musée d’Orsay / rm


It is interesting for me to discover how the patterns and interior scenes stand in the foreground of both portraits and still life. The bouquets of flowers in vases are not “placed” with some other still life objects, bottles, fruits etc, but shown in their surrounding with more attention to the feel of the room. The portraits are also rather studies of the room and patterns. Often these patterns are extremely detailed and intricate, but then there are still unfinished or quickly scribbled parts that leave a sense of spontaneity and movement. This is something I definitely would like to let flow into my own drawings- the balance between detail and letting detail out.

Pinakotek der Moderne


Just beside Museum Brandhorst with the Cy Twombly exhibition is the Pinakotek der Moderne for Art, Graphics, Architecture and Design from this Century.

I visited the Modern Art floor- divided into Classical Modernism with works by amongst many many others Francis Bacon, Kandisky, Nolde, Matisse, Munch, Braque , Picasso, Dali, Magritte and Miro- and Contemporary Art with works by Warhol, de Kooning and Twombly etc.

Exploring ” Intimacy” now in Part 2,  I was particularly happy to discover three small still life by Georgio Morandi from 1959/60.

The motives were all some various shapes of bottles in a quiet, calm composition. Although the composition is very simple with a plain background and foreground, Morandi still managed to convey a sense of much depth. The colours are earth tones and almost monochromatic, with one of the objects standing out gently in  another colour. No clear outlines, only a shift in tones between object and background or between objects.

One interesting discovery when seeing the paintings I know from reproductions online live is how the differences in size work, often I had no idea of the real size of the paintings. If the Cy Twombly were working massively by their sheer huge size and the Morandis were inviting to a quiet intimate contemplation by being small, I was surprised and a little disappointed at how small Paul Klees works are.


Having just researched Cubism I was delighted to see both Pablo Picasso’s “Woman with Violin ” from 1911, and George Braque’s “Woman with Mandolin “from 1910 hanging beside each other. I definitely have to have another go at drawing a Cubist drawing- the flower i drew captures just a small part of the idea- the multi perspective by the cubes- but the repetition of the same lines reappearing all over the canvas multiplying the same objects is a key. Also all the cubist paintings displayed here have a quite specific earth tone- brown yellow ochra colour palette and were darker , less colorful than I had thought.
images(George Braque here)
From Henri Matisse, I saw only Still life with Geranium from 1910. I am hoping to see some more works by Henri Matisse later in France, hopefully some of the later paintings  or cut outs.

Rene Magritte’s “the Key of dreams ” from 1927 is an interesting still life. The canvas is divided into four parts depicting four objects on black background with captions or titles- a bag with the text “le ciel” ( the sky), a knife with the text ” l’ oiseau” ( the bird), a leaf ” la table” ( the table) and a sponge with text ” l’ eponge” ( sponge), so out of the four only one is associated with a word same as the object depicted. The painting of a leaf is not a leaf just as the word leaf is not a leaf. I liked the little jump the mind takes looking at this. Something to possibly explore more in the still life assignment as well.


A whole room was dedicated to Georg Baselitz huge paintings with explosive motives in explosive colours looking like if they hang upside down.  I felt only overwhelmed here but possibly by being generally oversaturated by the amount of art I had seen previously this same day- so i will take another look at Georg Baselitz work online before writing more.

Cy Twombly was represented with two older paintings than the ones I just saw in Museum Brandhorst:” Bolsena “from 1969 and “New York City ” from 1968. Lots of seemingly random scribbles of letters and geometrical symbols on white or black background, many layers, painted , overpainted with white or black. Compared to the later works I just saw, it looked a little like the backgrounds only. The colourful more illustrative elements were missing and the running paint.

This was a very full and beautiful day seeing so much art in originals- I felt exhausted and happy and just so inspired to do and explore and experiment. I am always a little wary of coming back to Europe and feel like a fish out of water- but the possibility of seeing all this art is so tempting now. I will visit some museum or gallery everywhere on my route and am very excited about all the possibilities!