Alice Neel: The Cycle of Life

23 May - 21 July 2007
Victoria Miro Gallery I

Information

16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW

Alice Neel (1900 - 1984) was the foremost American portraitist and one of the most engaging painters of her times. Her exhibition includes paintings from the 1940s to the 1980s and will show subjects ranging from infancy to old age.  Neel was an acute observer of character and painted with an honest eye and trenchant wit.  Her paintings of mothers and babies reveal her deep understanding of their close bond while her depictions of the elderly reveal an empathy for the changes in body and mind that accompany old age. In between she scrutinizes the vulnerability of the child, the gawkiness of adolescence, the energy of youth, the wisdom of middle age, and the serenity of later life. Few 20th century artists have documented the life cycle with as penetrating a gaze as Alice Neel.

Born near Philadelphia in 1900, Neel studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. A member of the Works Progress Administration Programme in the 1930s she became a painter 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 pursuit of 'the truth' and there she painted casual acquaintances and people she encountered on the street among the immigrant community. A friend of left-wing writers and artists she was adopted as a feminist icon during the 1960s and 1970s, at which time she moved to the Upper West Side. 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 United States. 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.

The exhibition is organized in collaboration with Jeremy Lewison Limited which advises the Estate of Alice Neel.

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