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Being pregnant and unwed in Portugal

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LS Lowry and Victor Pasmore's opinions of my work
Paula Rego Artist
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LS Lowry was considered like... what’s the name of the woman now who does drunk women? I quite like her. What’s her name, the woman who does... who lives in Plymouth and... and does, and... and shows at the Portland Gallery and has had a show up at the Baltic now? Anyway, she’s very popular, lots of cards are sold, she’s a... a popular artist. Beryl Cook. Beryl Cook. Yup. Beryl Cook. And of course Lowry was considered the equivalent to Beryl Cook. Now, Lowry is a very great artist and Bill Coldstream had the nerve actually to invite him to come to the Slade. And I was one of the lucky ones that he saw. I took all my pictures to... to Lowry and he came by humph, humph, like this, and he looked at all my pictures and, you know what he said, he said, ‘I couldn’t do that, I couldn’t do that’. I thought that was wonderful. And then later on he wanted to buy a picture. Well, they never got... he wanted to buy one of my pictures but then he never got round to it, I know, because I got pregnant. But, anyway, he was like this... I was so pleased to see him; I had him as a marvellous experience and Victor Pasmore as a horrendous experience. He came... he’d just broken his leg. He was riding a bicycle and he came, I think, with his leg in plaster or something, dressed in white, and he looked at this stuff that was in front of him and he said: ‘I cannot understand how anybody living today can do stuff like that’. I said: ‘I don’t know’. Anyway, so I... I cried, I was so upset. I didn’t know why they had me seeing him, for heaven’s sake, it was no help whatsoever. And that was bad, but Lowry made up for it, and then I had a marvellous tutor called William Townsend, who was so kind and was very, very, very encouraging to me, always. We used to meet quite often and show him all the work and he said, ’Good, good, yes, carry on and...’ etc. That was very good. So I, you know, it was fine really... it was fine... there. I learned at the Slade. I learned at the Slade, I did quite a lot of drawing, which I think is immensely important and I think one of the terrible things that is happening now is that there is no... not much drawing done at art schools. And I think that is a great, great shame because I think that, you know — this is a corny thing to say possibly — but I think that drawing, that the connection that you actually draw holding the pencil and looking and putting down something and connects to your brain is not the same as using a computer. And phys... it’s very physical and I think it’s very important to learn. You discover things you never imagined were like that and when you’d done them, you’d think: oh my God, I didn’t know I was able to do that. And it... it’s very important to draw. Anyway, I did a lot of drawing at the Slade, yes, and I liked that.

Portuguese painter Paula Rego, became part of the London Group in 1965, was shortlisted for the Turner Prize in 1989 and became the first Associate Artist of the National Gallery in London in 1990. Her work is strongly influenced by folk and fairy tales, especially those of her homeland.

Listeners: Catherine Lampert

Catherine Lampert is an independent curator, art historian and Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts. She was director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery (1988-2001) and has been a model for Frank Auerbach since 1978. Her recent projects include exhibitions of Rodin (Royal Academy 2006) and Lucian Freud (Dublin, Denmark and The Hague 2007-2008) as well as a book on Francis Alys (Turner Libros) and a catalogue raisonné of Euan Uglow's paintings (Yale University Press 2007).

Duration: 3 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: August 2007

Date story went live: 17 July 2008