About the Artist
Intimate, casual, direct and personal, Alice Neel's portraits exist as an unparalleled chronicle of New York personalities – both famous and unknown. Born near Philadelphia in 1900, Alice Neel was one of the foremost American figurative painters and one of the most engaging painters of her times. A painter of portraits, cityscapes, landscapes and still life she was a woman with a strong social conscience and equally strong left-wing beliefs. These led her to move from the comfort of Greenwich Village to Spanish Harlem in 1938 in pursuit of 'the truth' and there she painted casual acquaintances and people she encountered on the street among the immigrant community. Her engagement with the art world came in the form of a series of dynamic portraits of artists and curators many of which are now in major museum collections throughout the world. In 1974 she presented a retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, an event that was repeated in 2000, marking the centenary of her birth.
A trailer of the film Alice Neel, directed by Andrew Neel, SeeThink Films, 2007
In 2007 Andrew Neel, Alice Neel's grandson, directed a documentary about Alice Neel's life. It explores her struggles as an artist and a single mother from the Depression era until her death in 1984. The film includes interviews with her sons, Richard and Hartley Neel, the children of her deceased daughter, Isabetta, artists Marlene Dumas, Chuck Close and Alex Katz, art historians Robert Storr and Jeremy Lewison, and Neel's surviving friends. It also includes footage from Michel Auder's earlier film about Neel. The film has recently been presented by the BBC as part of its Imagine… strand and is available to view on iplayer for a limited time.