As new exhibitions open in London and Paris, Lucy Davies profiles the life and career of Alice Neel, featuring an interview with Hartley and Ginny Neel.
Hartley Neel looks bohemian in a beret. He’s 81 now, but a picture on the wall behind – a portrait of him at 42, painted by his mother, the American artist Alice Neel – suggests the headgear became his signature long ago. It’s the same beret, he tells me.
Neel, who described herself as “a collector of souls”, painted her son “many hundreds” of times before her death in 1984. The experience of sitting for his mother always gave Hartley “a moment of peace”, he says. “You start thinking about all sorts of things: yourself and what you know, reviewing your life. It’s a very reflective time. When I was younger, it was harder, of course, but we were always happy to do it.”
Image: Alice Neel, Hartley with a Cat, 1969