Stuart Forster views contemporary art in Portugal at the Casa das Historias Paula Rego in Cascais, a striking art gallery near Lisbon.
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The Casa das Historias Paula Rego is an eye-catching centre for the display and appreciation of contemporary art in Cascais. The seaside town is 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Lisbon.
This attraction is named after artist Dame Paula Rego, who was born in Lisbon in 1935 and went to school in Cascais. Rego married the artist Victor Willing and holds British citizenship. The Casa das Historias Paula Rego holds a permanent collection of their work and also shows temporary exhibitions of work by other artists.
Paula Rego Houses of Stories
The name of the attraction translates into English as the ‘Paula Rego Houses of Stories’. Her work is renowned for being interpreted in numerous ways, hence the ‘house of stories’ name. ‘Museum’ was deemed inappropriate and less accessible.
Notably, Rego’s works have sparked debates about the role of women in society and the idealisation of the representation of women. They’ve also sparked discussions about Portugal during the dictatorship of Antonio Salazar and Estado Novo (New State) regime that was overthrown in 1974.
Casa das Historias Paula Rego
The gallery has 750 square metres of exhibition space. The minimalist interior design encompasses high ceilings, white walls and even lighting. That helps create a sense of space and serenity in which works by leading artists can be appreciated.
The lighting makes this a good venue for viewing paintings, sketches, etchings and drawings.
Architecture by Eduardo Souto de Moura
Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura designed the building. In 2011 he was the recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is regarded as the world’s most prestigious award for architectural achievement.
Constructed using concrete impregnated with red dye, the Casa das Historias Paula Rego has a simple but attractive facade.
Paula Rego Museum
Cascais gets a significant amount of sunshine throughout the year, ranging from an average of 125 hours in January to 375 hours in July. One of the building’s characteristics is that its appearance changes during the course of the day, thanks to the variations in the intensity of the hues and the effect of the sky’s colour on the red walls.
Though the design of the building is distinctly contemporary, it has two towers that echo the architectural heritage of this region. One is a reference to the twin chimneys of the National Palace in nearby Sintra. The other is the open space of the chimney in the kitchen of the monastery of Alcobaça.
Space beneath one of the towers hosts the Casa das Historias Paula Rego’s shop. It stocks books on art and architecture, postcards and art prints, plus a range of general souvenirs from Portugal.
The other is the home to a restaurant and café. Lunch is served from noon until 3.00 pm, with the emphasis being seasonal regional cuisine. Food and drinks bought in the café and restaurant can be eaten at tables inside the tower or out on the terrace.
Contemporary art in Portugal
The Casa das Historias Paula Rego makes an admirable effort to widen the appeal of modern and contemporary art.
There’s also a commitment to providing education on matters relating to art and the interpretation of artistic works. Lectures and discussions are held in the gallery. Sometimes they take place in the exhibition spaces, sometimes within the building’s purpose-built 200-seat auditorium.
English language tours can be arranged to fit with the visits of tourists visiting Lisbon on cruises. They can also be arranged on weekends for groups of between six and 30 people.
The Casa das Historias Paula Rego is by the park that is reputed to have hosted the first ever football game played in mainland Portugal. In 1888 a young man named Guilherme Pinto Basto, who had studied in England and brought back a leather ball, organised a game.
Things to do in Cascais
Local people and visitors to the Casa das Historias Paula Rego are encouraged to enjoy the gardens. Dotted with shade-providing trees, the gardens are ideal for sitting in and chatting. Students can often be seen sitting on the lawn sketching the building and enjoying the space in the company of friends. The gardens’ informality is one of the Casa das Historias Paula Rego’s attractions.
A stone fortress known locally as the cidadela (meaning ‘citadel’), built in 1681 to defend the Tagus estuary, is situated just 200 metres from the Casa das Historias Paula Rego. The citadel opened as a pousada heritage hotel in 2012.
The Parque Marachal Carmona, is on the opposite side of the Avenida de Republica, the road that runs by the front of the Casa das Historias Paula Rego. It’s a pleasant place to stroll while enjoying a broad variety of botanical species.
If you’re in Lisbon this is an easy place to reach and can be combined well with a day trip to Cascais.
Map of Casa das Historias Paula Rego
The Google Map below shows the location of the Casa das Historias Paula Rego in Cascais, Portugal:
Travel to Cascais
The rail journey between the Cais do Sodré railway station in Lisbon and Cascais takes approximately 40 minutes. Cascais’s railway station is a 10-minute walk from the Casa das Historias Paula Rego.
British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and TAP Portugal count among the airlines offering direct flights between the United Kingdom and Portugal.
Hotels in Cascais
Search for accommodation in Cascais via Booking.com:
Books about Paula Rego and Portugal
Planning a trip to Portugal and interested in contemporary art? You can buy the following books via Amazon by clicking on the links or cover photos:
Paula Rego: The Art of Story by Deryn Rees-Jones:
The Lonely Planet Portugal guidebook:
The Casa das Historias Paula Rego is at Avenida de Republica 300 in Cascais, Portugal. See the website for up-to-date details regarding opening times, entry prices and exhibitions.
The Visit Portugal website has information about attractions across the country.
Thank you for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post about the Casa das Historias Paula Rego in Cascais. Planning a trip to Portugal? You may also find posts on how to spend 48 hours in Lisbon and coffee at Café A Brasileira in Lisbon worth reading.
Photos illustrating this post are by Why Eye Photography.
Stuart Forster, the author of this post, was based in Lisbon for two years. He is an award-winning freelance travel writer. His arts-related work has appeared in the likes of Timeless Travels, The Independent and The South China Morning Post.
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A version of this post was first published on Go Eat Do on 28 June 2013.