Anatomy of an Artwork: Alice Neel's Benjamin featured in the Guardian

Alice Neel's Benjamin: light mood, dark truth. By Skye Sherwin

 

By the time she painted this portrait, Neel was part of New York's in-crowd, but she spent years charting social exclusion in Spanish Harlem

 

Little boy blue

The great US portraitist Alice Neel's Benjamin depicts her landlord's son. Its mood, as light as a helium balloon floating away on a summer's day, was hard won.

 

Not a number

When Neel began painting her neighbours in Spanish Harlem in the 1940s and 50s, urban deprivation was becoming a subject for national debate. While the civil rights movement gathered pace, she painted those immediately around her, cutting through statistics by putting individuals in the frame.

 

Read more

 

Image: Alice Neel, Benjamin, 1976

Acrylic on board
75.9 x 52.7cm 
29 7/8 x 20 3/4 inches
© The Estate of Alice Neel
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London and Victoria Miro, London
The Guardian Posted 12 May 2017

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