Alice Neel exhibition in Edinburgh. By Rachel Spence.
The US painter best known for her anguished portraits is given a new — and rather less gloomy — showing at Talbot Rice gallery.
Every painter has a narrative. Titian was a sensual colourist who used pigment to seduce church and state alike. Van Gogh created miracles while descending into personal hell. Picasso blasted his way though art history like one of his Spanish bulls. As for Alice Neel, her tortured life accounts for the inner torment she revealed in her subjects: the appalled mother; the dispossessed pauper; the child with eyes that have seen too much, too young.
That is the story commonly rolled out for a Neel retrospective. And to an extent it is true. The Pennsylvania-born portraitist spent much of her life in penury, suffered violence at the hands of her long-term lover Sam Brody, lost one child to death and another to abduction (by her husband, the Cuban artist Carlos Enríquez)...