Essays on Paula Rego: Smile When You Think about Hell - cover image


Maria Manuel Lisboa

Published On





  • English

Print Length

510 pages (xvi+494)


Paperback156 x 35 x 234 mm(6.14" x 1.39" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 40 x 234 mm(6.14" x 1.56" x 9.21")


Paperback2114g (74.57oz)
Hardback2522g (88.96oz)



OCLC Number





  • AFC
  • JFFK
  • JPSL
  • VFVX


  • ART037000
  • SOC010000
  • POL007000


  • N7133.R44


  • Paula Rego
  • Portugual
  • artist
  • personal history
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Essays on Paula Rego

Smile When You Think about Hell

  • Maria Manuel Lisboa (author)
In these powerful and stylishly written essays, Maria Manuel Lisboa dissects the work of Paula Rego, the Portuguese-born artist considered one of the greatest artists of modern times. Focusing primarily on Rego’s work since the 1980s, Lisboa explores the complex relationships between violence and nurturing, power and impotence, politics and the family that run through Rego’s art.

Taking a historicist approach to the evolution of the artist’s work, Lisboa embeds the works within Rego’s personal history as well as Portugal’s (and indeed other nations’) stories, and reveals the interrelationship between political significance and the raw emotion that lies at the heart of Rego’s uncompromising iconographic style. Fundamental to Lisboa’s analysis is an understanding that apparent opposites – male and female, sacred and profane, aggression and submissiveness – often co-exist in Rego’s work in a way that is both disturbing and destabilising.

This collection of essays brings together both unpublished and previously published work to make a significant contribution to scholarship about Paula Rego. It will also be of interest to scholars and students of contemporary painting, Portuguese and British feminist art, and the political and ideological aspects of the visual arts.


In this beautifully written monograph, Maria Manuel Lisboa explores the work of Paula Rego from various interconnected perspectives – iconographic, semiological and historiographic.This book is an urgent and necessary addition to the bibliography on Paula Rego, and an important contribution to scholarship about the artist, but also to contemporary painting, Portuguese art, feminist art, and areas of scholarship relating to the handling of the political and ideological in the visual arts.

Ruth Rosengarten


Rego (b. 1935) is often thought of as a feminist artist because of her concern with issues like abortion and sexual violence, but Lisboa (Portuguese literature and culture, Univ. of Cambridge, UK) demonstrates that the artist is much more than that. Lisboa contextualizes Rego within the history and literature of Portugal. Lisboa does not shy away from difficult subject matter: she interrogates love, violence, incest, and religion [...] The text is erudite but accessible. Although Lisboa's presentation is not deeply theoretical, she does make reference to major thinkers, e.g., Jürgen Habermas, Jacques Lacan, Fredric Jameson, and Mieke Bal. Essays on Paula Rego is open access.

T. Nygard, Ripon College

Choice Connect (0009-4978), vol. 57, no. 4, 2019.


1. Past History and Deaths Foretold: A Map of Memory

(pp. 33–94)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

2. (He)Art History or a Death in the Family: The Late 80s

(pp. 95–128)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

3. The Sins of the Fathers: Mother and Land Revisited in the 1990s

(pp. 129–198)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

4. An Interesting Condition: The Abortion Pastels

(pp. 199–274)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

5. Brave New Worlds: The Birthing of Nations in The First Mass In Brazil

(pp. 275–290)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

6. I Am Coming to Your Kingdom, Prince Horrendous: Scary Stories for Baby, Perfect Stranger and Me

(pp. 291–352)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

7. Paula and the Madonna: Who's That Girl?

(pp. 353–388)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

8. Epilogue: Let Me Count the Ways I Love You

(pp. 389–408)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

Appendix A: Translation of Alexandre Herculano’s A Dama Pé de Cabra (The Lady with a Cloven Hoof)

(pp. 409–432)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

Appendix B: 'Fascinação' ('Enchantment')

(pp. 433–440)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa

Prologue: A Patriot for Me

(pp. 1–32)
  • Maria Manuel Lisboa


Maria Manuel Lisboa

Professor of Portuguese Literature and Culture at University of Cambridge