Appropriation of stories through the written word is a fundamental and recurring exercise in Paula Rego’s work. Her period of study at the Slade School of Fine Art, in London, from 1952 to 1956, was a determining factor for the stimulation of this line of research, allowing her to develop a personal figurative language in which her universe of identity references is always present.
A concern to impose a realistic stamp on her works, thus starting from the reality closest to her, that of Portugal, lies at the origin of Paula Rego’s pictorial research and is also shared by the Portuguese writer she most admires, Eça de Queirós (1845-1900). The process of social and political denouncing is drawn up by both of them through close observation of daily life that reflects, despite the chronological distance separating them, the way the ideological, philosophical, political and even moral context of realism was determining in the defining of their artistic and literary paths.
The choice of the narratives from Eça de Queirós’s work by Paula Rego to use as a starting point for her new series of works, Cousin Bazilio (1878) and The Relic (1887), was carried out in full coherence with the overall theme of her work: moral and social dramas; human relationships, with neither artifices nor heroes.