Alice Neel (1900-1984) is widely recognised as one of the great American painters of the twentieth century. Her success, however, has largely been posthumous. In the past decade, interest in her work has grown exponentially, with a series of landmark exhibitions and art historical studies firmly cementing her position on the international stage.Read More
Neel’s oeuvre is fascinating on two counts: not only was she an incredibly gifted painter, but also an astute and idiosyncratic chronicler of some of the most tumultuous decades in American history. While she also painted landscapes and still lifes, Neel is best known as a painter of people. Her sitters included artists, writers, intellectuals and family members, as well as people living on the margins of society, particularly immigrants. Deeply committed to equality and social justice, Neel was interested in the human struggle for survival, and in mankind’s capacity for resilience in the face of hardship and deprivation. With her distinctive brushwork and remarkable feel for colour, Neel succeeded in capturing the inner psychological depths of her sitters. Her commitment to truth and dedication to figuration – unfashionable during her lifetime – ensured that her work remained permanently out of kilter with avant-garde movements such as abstract expressionism, pop art and minimalism. Yet her uncompromising approach gave rise to a unique and highly individualistic body of work that continues to exert an influence on contemporary artistic production.
Alice Neel has been honoured with two retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art: one in 1974, and a centennial, posthumous exhibition in 2000, which was initiated by the Philadelphia Museum of Art where it was shown in 2001. The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, organised a major exhibition entitled Alice Neel: Painted Truths in 2010. The exhibition travelled to the Whitechapel Gallery, London, and the Moderna Museet, Malmö, Sweden.
Alice Neel was born in Pennsylvania in 1900 and died in New York in 1984.
Text courtesy Xavier Hufkens.
Mousse Magazine: How does Alice Neel in New Jersey and Vermont represent a specific part of Neel's oeuvre? Jeremy Lewison: This exhibition reveals a side of Neel that has not been very visible to date. Many exhibitions have included family portraits, certainly, but this one really gives you a sense of place: where Neel was working and how it...
When, in 1938, Alice Neel decided to relocate from Greenwich Village to Spanish Harlem with José Negrón, a musician and her then-boyfriend, she was making a bold yet potentially career-destroying move. During the early '30s, Neel had participated in New York's first open-air exhibitions, held in Washington Square, which had begun to put the city...
For artist and activist Alice Neel, now recognized as one of the great painters of the 20th century, people were always where you saw the world—its inequalities and cruelties, its joys and hopes—most clearly. She spent her lifetime discovering them: looking closely, listening, and recording the conversation in paint. Painting is a...
I grew up in Brooklyn. For a while, on weekends, my father would take me and my little brother into "the city." My father loved to walk, and he loved foreign films and foreign food. This meant that we saw different areas of Manhattan all the time.
Jeremy Lewison, adviser to the Estate of Alice Neel, talks with Angela Lampe, curator of Modern Art at Centre Pompidou, on the occasion of the exhibition 'Alice Neel in New Jersey and Vermont' (26 October—15 December 2018).
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