© The Artist


Paula Rego (1935 – )


52 X 38 CM
Accession number


The Nursery Rhymesportfolio derived from drawings Paula Rego made for her granddaughter Carmen for her second birthday. She drew those rhymes that Carmen knew, and these drawings, in ink and wash, were much simpler than the prints. The artist worked directly on the plates, and it is a measure of her draughtmanship that few had to be written off. The printing was undertaken by Paul Coldwell, himself an artist, at the Culford Press. He described the experience as a joy ‘because her images are so strongly drawn. At various points in the making of a print she insists on looking at it from a distance. Most artists work with the print under their noses, and only see at the private view that the image is unreadable at anything over six inches.’ The artist had wanted the prints to be strong and direct and wanted them to work, as she said, ‘biff-bang’.

Nursery rhymes are traditional rhymes passed on to children by adults. The first known book of rhymes was published around 1744. It is believed that this rhyme was a macabre parody on the Great Plague that swept through the British Isles in 1685. The first symptom was a ring of raised rose coloured spots, and there was a popular belief that smelling a pot-pourri of herbs would ward off the disease.

Ring a Ring O' Roses,
A pocketful of posies,
Atishoo! Atishoo!
We all fall down!




Further reading:
Paula Rego Nursery Rhymes, The South Bank Centre, London 1990
T G Rosenthal, Paula Rego The Complete Graphic Work, Thames & Hudson, London 2003
Iona and Peter Opie, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, Clarendon Press, Oxford 1952