Paula Rego paints topsy-turvy worlds and dark fairytales. Her primary concern is psychological narrative, and her exposition is led by women. Their stories are generally expressed through the portrayal of oblique, private or incidental moments in her subjects’ stories: solitary consternation or reverie; physical discomfort and contortion; private or illicit exchanges behind closed doors. It is fitting, therefore, that Rego should find so rich a source in Jane Eyre, a novel contingent upon revelations and hidden things.
Rego’s Jane Eyre series was celebrated for its sensitive and unconventional approach to one of the best-loved novels in English literature. The twenty-five lithographs she produced portray significant events in Jane’s life, from her unhappy youth at her uncle’s house and Lowood orphanage, to her arrival at Thornfield Hall, her developing relationship with Mr Rochester, and the discovery of his wife Bertha who, on account of her violent insanity, has remained hidden in his attic for ten years.
Rego’s approach is reliably original, due in part to her personal interpretation of the story. Raised in the wake of Portuguese dictatorship, Rego’s work is suffused with the power of secrets and the unseen. She did not encounter Jane until her sixties, but was struck by the character’s self-possession and passion, and by Brontë’s handling of themes which had proved central to her oeuvre. Historian and novelist Marina Warner observed that in the Jane Eyre series 'Rego has explored, in a myriad different sequences of pictures, the conditions of her own upbringing in Portugal, her formation as a girl and a woman, and the oscillation between stifling social expectations and liberating female stratagems.’2
Despite Bertha’s prolonged confinement, Rego portrays her as being free and at ease. Bertha sits on the floor with her legs apart and her brow furrowed with disgruntlement. Her hair and clothes are in disarray, with her dress bunched around her waist and shoulders. She is the visual counterpoint to Jane, whom Rego portrays in long-sleeved, high-necked and heavy-skirted dresses, her comportment erect. Jane underlines the importance of her own freedom at several points in the novel, yet both she and Bertha are bound by their respective statuses in society, as well as by their relationship with Rochester. ‘Bertha and Jane are two sides to the same woman’, Rego stated.3 Further comparison between the characters is encouraged by the use of the same model (Lila, the chiropodist who nursed Rego’s husband through ill health, and who then began to model for Rego from 1988 until the end of her life); Jane and Bertha’s physical features are rendered indistinguishable.
Rego’s discovery of Jane Eyre coincided with an invitation to explore lithography by Stanley Jones, director of Curwen Studios; she had formerly predominantly worked with etching and aquatint. The Cambridge-based studio had been established in 1958 with the intention of introducing artists to a variety of printmaking techniques, and had worked with artists including David Hockney, Barbara Hepworth, John Piper, Elizabeth Frink, Man Ray, Patrick Heron and Howard Hodgkin. Bertha formed the basis of four lithographs within the series, despite remaining concealed for the great majority of Jane Eyre, demonstrating her importance to Rego. We are delighted to be offering a pencil, ink and wash study for Bertha inscribed ‘Jane Eyre for CS [Curwen Studios]’, as well as a Bertha lithograph.
Lyon & Turnbull are delighted to offer Modern and Contemporary editioned prints and multiples within our Contemporary & Post-War Art // Prints & Multiples and MODERN MADE auctions.
An exciting and developing area of the market, Prints & Multiples are popular with new and seasoned collectors alike.
At Lyon & Turnbull, we handle prints from a wide variety of artists: from 20th century masters Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Joan Miro through to the British canon of printmakers including Dame Laura Knight, L.S. Lowry, Edward Bawden, all the way to David Hockney and Howard Hodgkin. Our auctions encompass printmaking created up to and including the present day, with artists currently working in these mediums, such as Tracey Emin, David Shrigley, Banksy and the Connor Brothers.
Characterised by competitive bidding, strong results and a high selling rate, our Contemporary & Post-War Art sales are among our most popular auctions. Held three times a year in our Scottish saleroom, highlights are also regularly exhibited in our London gallery. Our strong private client base and excellent international marketing reach has seen these sales grow into flagships of our company.
Encompassing works by both emerging and internationally regarded contemporary artists and sculptors, we have achieved top prices for household names including John Hoyland (a world record), Bridget Riley, Eduardo Paolozzi (a world record for a sculpture), Terry Frost, Nicholas Party, Alison Watt and Callum Innes. Regularly featured local favourites include John Bellany and the ‘New Glasgow Boys’ Peter Howson, Ken Currie, Steven Campbell, as well as John Byrne and Alasdair Gray.
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