Alice Neel - American Artist
Born in 1900, Alice Neel was an American portrait artist. Neel's difficult and unconventional life mimicked the approach she took towards her paintings. Although her early work received limited attention, Neel would enjoy great success and the recognition she so richly deserved during the last two decades of her life. Here is Alice Neel's bio and some examples of her unusual artwork. I hope you enjoy them!
Creative Commons photo courtesy Wikimedia
"Young Woman" - 1940
Born on January 28, 1900, Alice Neel grew up in a small community on the outskirts of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1921, Neel enrolled in the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, and completed her degree in 1925. Just months after her graduation, Alice married Cuban painter Carlos EnrÃquez and the couple moved to Havana, Cuba, where they had their first child, a daughter named Santillana.
The young family's bliss would be short lived. In 1926, shortly after the three moved to New York City, Santillana would die of diphtheria. Following Santillana's death, Neel became pregnant with her second child, and daughter Isabetta was born in 1928.
Alice Neel Art Info
Alice Neel Quote
"That's what I really am, yes. A sympathetic, or sometimes not so sympathetic translator."- Alice Neel
"Dead Father" - 1946
In early 1930, Neel's husband and daughter returned to Havana. Stinging from the loss of her family, Alice Neel suffered a severe breakdown. After a short stay in the hospital, Neel tried to kill herself. She was placed in the suicide wing of a Philadelphia hospital. A year later, Neel was released from the sanitorium in 1931 and returned to her parents' home.
In the mid-30s Neel would return to New York City, and in 1939 Neel gave birth to her first son, Richard, the child of JosÃ© Santiago, a Puerto Rican singer whom Neel had known since 1935. Shortly after Richard's birth, Neel moved to Spanish Harlem, but in 1940, Alice and JosÃ© would go their seperate ways. On September 3, 1941, Neel would give birth to her last child, Hartley, whose father was Communist Sam Brody. In the years from 1940 and 1950, Neel painted portraits and made illustrations for a variety of Communist newspapers.
"Two Girls, Spanish Harlem" - 1959
1960s and Later
After a relatively uneventful 1950s, Neel saw her workload and accolades ramp up in the 60s. By 1970, Alice was a full-blown celebrity appearing twice on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson. In 1971 Neel was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from her alma mater Moore College of Art (formerly the Philadelphia School of Design for Women).
The celebration of Neel's work would continue in the mid and late 1970s. In 1976, she was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1979, Alice received a National Women's Caucus for Art award, presented by President, Jimmy Carter.
Neel's last major solo exibition of her work before her death was held in Moscow in 1981. When Alice Neel died on October 13, 1984, at the age of 84, her work was without a doubt at it's peak in both popularity and acceptance.
"Mother and Children" - 1967
Do You Like Alice's Artwork?
Alice Neel Documentary Trailer
Alice Neel Links
Photo Credits: Creative Commons and public domain images.