Alice Neel, Painter of the People

Alice Neel, Painter of the People

Until her death in 1984, she received criticism for not making big enough sales or attracting heavyweight curators.

“Neel’s embrace of awkwardness was a rebuke to those who would elevate style and coherence over the messiness of human content. Her vision of the vagaries of human existence was at odds not just with abstraction — which dominated American art during Neel’s prime years — but also with the slickness and virtuosity of Sargent and of later American figure painters such as Alex Katz and Philip Pearlstein.”
—Sebastian Smee, art critic, The Washington Post

Portraiture was a bourgeois concept to the late American painter Alice Neel. She preferred to describe her work as “pictures of people.” These pictures, painted in her signature style of detailed figuration with abstract flourishes, evade the kinds of commercial appeal that made portraits so marketable to the rich. Her oeuvre did not shamelessly flatter the wealthy — it was an archive of the everyday people in her life […]

Alice Neel, 1944. Alice Neel Archive, Stowe, Vt. Photograph by Sam Brody. Courtesy The Estate of Alice Neel 

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