An Exhibition of Portraits by Alice Neel Essay example

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An Exhibition of Portraits by Alice Neel

An exhibition of portraits of the family by Alice Neel, one of the finest painters of her generation, is at the Norton Museum of Art February 14 through March 29, 1998. Both critics and the subjects of her paintings have written of Neel's ability to portray the dynamics of relationships. Kinships focuses on particular family relationships: siblings, domestic pairs, parents and children, and members of her own family. The exhibition was organized by the Tacoma Art Museum, and is sponsored by The Elizabeth Norton Society.

Born in 1900, Alice Neel worked as a figurative painter during the decades of WPA realism, postwar abstract expressionism, and 1970s minimalism. She persevered in her work
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The father's tenderness for Jonathan fills the painting, in which he cradles the boy in his left arm. The warm colors and loose application of paint hide neither the shadowed look on the father's face, nor the gentle vacantness on the son's.

Neel's early work tended to depict generalized relationships, but as her later work deepened, she embraced the particular. She didn't paint "the gay couple," or "the art world couple" instead, she painted unique individuals, as her titles relate: Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian or Cindy Nemser and Chuck. Each subject has a clear individualism. She respected the distinct character of each person without sentimentalizing him or her.

The importance of the family for Neel is reflected in her portraits of her sons and their wives and children, some of her best known subjects. Last Sickness, 1952, painted in the year before her mother's death, is intimate and unsentimental, a daughter's record of her strong mother's decline. In Richard in the Era of the Corporation, Neel expresses concern for a son driven by the pressures of a corporate career.

Alice Neel studied at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now the Moore College of Art. She married Cuban artist Carlos Enriquez in 1925 and moved to Cuba with him where her first child, Santillana, was born. Another daughter was born in 1928. In the early 1930s, Neel returned to New York, where she joined the Public Works of Art Project and later the Federal Art

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