Lot 10
  • 10

Paula Rego

350,000 - 500,000 GBP
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  • Paula Rego
  • Baying
  • signed on the reverse
  • pastel on canvas
  • 100 by 76cm.
  • 39 3/8 by 30in.
  • Executed in 1994.


Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1994


London, Marlborough Fine Art, Ltd., Paula Rego: Dog Woman, 1994, no. 7, illustrated in colour
Liverpool, Tate, Paula Rego Retrospective, 1997, p. 69, no. 54, illustrated in colour 
Lisbon, Centro Cultural de Belém, Paula Rego Retrospective, 1997, p. 27, illustrated in colour and illustrated in colour on the cover of the brochure, VHS cassette and postcards
Lisbon, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, on temporary loan, 1998 - 2000


John McEwen, Paula Rego, London 1997, p. 211, no. 202, illustrated in colour and a detail illustrated in colour on the cover
Fiona Bradley, Paula Rego, London 2002, p. 69, fig. 54, illustrated in colour
Ana Marques Gastão, Nós-Nudos, Lisbon 2004, p. 58, illustrated in colour
Anon., Revista Visão, 29 March 2007, p. 162, illustrated in colour
Exhibition Catalogue, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Paula Rego, 2007, p. 122, illustrated in colour


Colour: The colours in the catalogue illustration are fairly accurate although the overall tonality is slightly brighter and more vibrant. Condition: This work is in very good condition.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

"With pastel you don't have the brush between you and the surface. Your hand is making the picture. It's almost like being a sculptor. You are actually making the person. It's very tactile...and there's a lot of physical strength involved because it's overworked, masses and masses of layers changed all the time. It takes a lot of strength."

The artist cited in: John McEwen, Paula Rego, London 1997, p. 215


Seminal amidst the poignantly brutal works of Rego's most important and highly renowned series, the 'Dog Women' of 1994 and 1995, Baying casts a lone female with the rich spectrum of ambiguities that signals the artist's very best portrayals of women. Knees splayed, neck cocked back and howling into the grey expanse, this complex pastel character is the summation of this much celebrated cycle in which figures are unashamedly animalised to embody a heavily loaded metaphor of womanhood. In an astonishing juxtaposition, Rego enlists this stark allegory of a woman as a dog in the semi-mystical setting of a night-time beach to expose strikingly contemporary and post-Feminist themes. By depicting the world around her with unfaltering honesty and harsh directness, Rego makes the confrontation of her subject matter intensely relevant and current. Indeed, the sheer emotional force of the present work was summarised with deft accuracy at last year's major retrospective in Madrid: "In Baying, 1994, Rego's friend and most frequent model in the series Lila Nunes (a fixture in Rego's life from the time that she nursed her dying husband Victor Willing, in his last illness) kneels on a deserted beach:  putty coloured sand, dirty evening sky, a strip of blue water fringed with lines of breaking waves.  She leans forward and her head is thrown back, howling softly, disconsolated (but not hysterically):  Awoooo!  One hears the sound of a doggy love-call" (Robert Hughes cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Paula Rego, 2007, p. 122)


The solidity of the model Lila's form is distinctly palpable and visceral through the heavily-worked, built-up layers of pastel. The surface texture of Baying, at once evincing both waxy and chalky qualities, has been endlessly plied by Rego to reveal the corporeal character of her subject. The figure's strong anatomy is confidently scribed in directional hatching, leading the eye down to her chiselled foot, while the delicate silhouette of her neck perfectly describes the strain of her head reaching upwards and the balloon of air filling her throat with a howl. Since 1993 Rego has chosen to work exclusively in pastel, redefining the limits of a medium that adeptly facilitates her urgent and emotive technique. She has described the effort and strength her vigorous method requires and apparently "At the end of the day's work she looked like a coalminer, teeth and eyes the only visible features in her black face smudged by hours of pensive fingering" (John McEwen, Paula Rego, London 1997, p. 215).


Narrative is central to Rego's canon and the 'Dog Women' evoke a long tradition from the fantastical mythology of Ovid's Metamorphoses to the intimations of Edgar Degas' bestial characterisations in his late pastel Toilettes. As the present work so powerfully illustrates, Rego's pictorial narratives can take as their source pre-existing literary or folkloric texts. However, far from conventional storytelling, Rego goes beyond merely illustrating the narrative that is her point of departure, but rewrites the story visually, using her source as a screen on which to project her own narratives gleaned from autobiographical memory and imagination. In this way she creates a complex layering of narratives, both personal and political histories, meshed together by her exquisite draughtsmanship and manipulation of material.


As such, this baying woman, akin to the other strongly symbolic women in this series, becomes identified by her action, and the urgency of the swiftly applied pastel links the physicality of her unbridled sexuality to the energy at work in her creation. John McEwen has described how in this instance "the dog woman howls for her daemon lover to the distant and nocturnal thunder of the sea" (Ibid. p. 215). As with other pastels in the suite, the animalistic posture and sexual overtones here implicate an unseen male presence, which in turn plays on the degenerative and prejudiced gender relationship metaphor of a dog (woman) and its master.


Through the dense, almost sculptural, pigment stratification and moulding of the model's body the artist communes her own, inimitable character imprint. However, the raw physicality of this bestial subject seemingly strikes a thematic dichotomy with the artist's empowering depictions of women. It could even be reminiscent of Degas' description of his portrayal of female nudes: "I show them without their coquetry, in the state of animals cleaning themselves" (Edgar Degas in Richard Kendall and MacDonald Orbis, Eds., Degas by Himself, London 1987, p. 299). However, ultimately Rego herself explains that the importance of this corporeality is its primal and uninhibited honesty and physical independence: "To be bestial is good. It's physical. Eating, snarling, all activities to do with sensation are positive. To picture a woman as a dog is utterly believable. It emphasises this physical side of her being. What is important is that the dog is the animal most like a human. A dog learns people's ways and behaves like a person; just as people do. Women learn from those they are with; they are trained to do certain things, but they are also part animal. They have independence of body, independence of spirit and their tastes can be quite gross" (the artist cited in: John McEwen, Op. Cit. p. 216).