Explore the relationship between Dame Paula Rego’s monumental painting and the 15th-century altarpiece and National Gallery staff that inspired it.
Thirty years ago, Dame Paula Rego (1935–2022), our first Associate Artist (1990–2), was commissioned to create a mural for the then new Sainsbury Wing Dining Room.
The result, Rego’s ‘Crivelli’s Garden’, took its inspiration from an altarpiece by the 15th-century Italian artist Carlo Crivelli, ‘La Madonna della Rondine (The Madonna of the Swallow)’ painted after 1490 to tell the story of women from biblical history and folklore based on paintings in the collection and stories from the Golden Legend. Figures including the Virgin Mary, Saint Catherine, Mary Magdalene and Delilah find themselves in the maze of Crivelli’s re-imagined garden surrounded by Portuguese blue and white tiled walls.
The depictions of these courageous and strong women were based on the people that Rego knew, including friends, family and members of the National Gallery staff at the time. The original life drawings are presented alongside the painting - allowing us to discover and enjoy the connections between them.
This exhibition celebrates Dame Paula's connections to the National Gallery and her time as a resident artist, and is a tribute to the work and life of one of the most important artists of her generation.