Dance to your Daddy, 1989Paula Rego

Dance to your Daddy, 1989

Etching in colours, on velin Arches
Signed and inscribed 'A/P' in pencil
An artist’s proof aside from the edition of 50
From Nursery Rhymes
Printed by Culford Press, London
Co-published by the artist and Marlborough Graphics, London
Plate: 22.3 × 21.5 cm (8.7 × 8.5 in)
Sheet: 52 × 37.6 cm (20.5 × 14.8 in)

’The Nursery Rhymes’ published by Marlborough Graphics in 1989 comprise thirty-one works in etching and aquatint of which five were published separately and 26 in a portfolio edition. Rego contributed a further series of five Nursery Rhymes in 1994. Rego draws deeply on the Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, 1951 to illustrate, embellish, transform or subvert the rhymes totally. She executed them as a child might, drawing without prior elaborate planning, spontaneously and directly onto the plate which imbues these etchings with extraordinary immediacy. 'The Nursery Rhymes' show Rego at her most allusive, shocking and fertile best.

While the song is obviously addressed to a baby, Rego takes it on a step or two, and, faithful to its Scottish provenance, has the baby as at least four or five years old, in full Highland fig with kilt, sporran, stockings and dirk, vigorously dancing a Highland step for both his daddy and the woman. Against a background of a loch and mountains, the father could be a laird in English clothes, or the head gamekeeper. She holds a string of no less than four fishies while dancing barefoot to the child. She is probably the nurse, as she is splendidly wild and unsuited to be the wife of the formal man.

T. G. Rosenthal, Paula Rego: The Complete Graphic Work (London: Thames & Hudson, 2012), 56.