Alice Neel (1900-1984) was one of the most important twentieth-century American figurative painters. Her psychologically charged portraits, poignant still lifes, emotive cityscapes and emotionally charged landscapes
bear witness to a century of change in attitudes, life styles and social mores. Living in New York, she engaged with her neighbourhood communities in Greenwich Village, Spanish Harlem and finally the Upper West Side.
As a Communist sympathiser, she took a strong interest in the victims of poverty and discrimination, whether they were African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, political activists, homosexuals or transvestites. From the late 1950s onwards she also painted remarkable, candid images of fellow artists and writers. Her naked female portraits were prescient of the concerns of second-wave feminism, renouncing both idealisation and eroticisation, while her depictions of mothers and children brought realism to a subject traditionally sentimentalised. Neel was a painter of modern life who presented an intimate but unconventional view of the unheralded aspects of contemporary living.
This richly illustrated book provides a fresh perspective on Neel’s career. Essays by Bice Curiger, Petra Gördüren, Jeremy Lewison, Laura Stamps and Annamari Vänskä address Neel’s stylistic development in the age of photography, her position in relation to the debates concerning the mid-century “crisis of man”, her exposure to early twentieth-century German painting, her unconventionality and political alignment, and her relationship to second-wave feminist discourse.
Catalogue entries for 72 paintings provide significant new information on each of the works. Complete with an illustrated chronology of Neel’s life, this book provides a comprehensive overview of one of the major US artists.