’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.
See—saw, Margery Daw, 1994Paula Rego
Etching with aquatint and hand-colouring, on velin Arches
Signed and numbered from the edition of 50
From Nursery Rhymes
Printed by Culford Press, London
Co-published by the artist and Marlborough Graphics, London
Plate: 31.7 × 21.2 cm (12.5 × 8.3 in)
Sheet: 52 × 37.6 cm (20.5 × 14.8 in)
Within a handmade oak frame with UV filtered glass Frame: 56.3 x 43.3 cm (22.1 x 17 in)
Rego's version of ’See—Saw, Margery Daw’ echoes the rhythm of sawyers singing to the swing of a two-handled saw. The plank is balanced on a recently cut section of a substantial trunk, and in the background a man is felling a tree. Amid the lushness of the flowers on the left - here enhanced by the use of bright colours - a little girl is embracing a smaller boy, while on the right a pigtailed girl is communing with a pig. The pair on the see-saw seem ill-balanced. The sprightly girl, hair fiercely standing up, is clearly finding it difficult to get her end down and force up the rather lumpish boy. What at first to like an idyllic, sylvan seashore scene is in fact full of psychological unease. It seems that the little boy is being hugged rather more than he wants to be, and that the heavyweight boy in blue is weighed down by more than his fat. The grinning girl who plainly cannot move him is somehow frightening him into a deadweight resistance. All in all, a masterly exercise in dysfunction.
— T. G. Rosenthal, Paula Rego: The Complete Graphic Work (London: Thames & Hudson, 2012), 32.