Monday, May 16, 2016

The Other 90%: Alice Neel

We’re spotlighting some of the artists included in The Other 90%: Works from the GW Permanent Collection, on view now through June 3, 2016 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.


Life & Career


Alice Neel (1900-1984) was one of the most prolific American portrait painters of the twentieth century. Although abstraction was popular during the 1940s and 50s, she continued to paint in a style that depicted real people from celebrities of the art world like Andy Warhol to impoverish Neighbors in Spanish Harlem. Her gift was being able to reveal something of her sitters’ inner selves through depictions of their outer appearance.[1]

Neel was born in Merion Square, Pennsylvania and began her art education at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now known as Moore College of Art and Design), enrolled from 1921-25 Her early life was turbulent and her marriage to the artist Carlos Enriquez took her from Pennsylvania to Cuba to New York. With the death of a child and a disintegrating marriage, she suffered from anxiety and depression, which led to several suicide attempts. By 1932 she had returned to painting and to New York, where she participated in the First Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit that year. Like many artists living in New York during the 1930s, Neel joined the Public Works of Art Project (which would later become the Works Progress Administration, WPA), a government-funded program run under the Whitney Museum of American Art; she worked with the program on and off again until its termination in 1943.[2]

While she was included in a number group shows and small exhibitions during the 1940s and 50s, Neel only began to see increased recognition in the 1960s. By 1974 the Whitney Museum of American Art was holding a retrospective of her work, which many considered to be ‘too little, too late’ although she considered it a triumph. In 1984, the year of her death, she appeared twice on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, offering to paint his portrait.[3]


Activism


Neel was an activist throughout her life. She was investigated in 1955 by the FBI who had been looking into her activities with the Communist Party since 1951. Their file described her as a “romantic Bohemian type communist.” [4] In 1959, she appeared in the Beat film Pull My Daisy with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, among others. In 1968 she participated in a protest of the Whitney Museum of American Art over the exhibition 1930s Painting and Sculpture in America, because of its lack of women and African American artists, and again over the exhibition, Contemporary Black Artists in America, which was accused of being hastily organized by its curator, Robert Doty. 

She participated in a demonstration against the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, Harlem on My Mind, in 1969; she, Raphael Soyer, John Dobbs, and Mel Roman were the only white artists to attend the demonstration, organized by the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition. She also stood with the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam opposing Governor Nelson rockefeller's handling of the Attica prison riot in 1971. Her portrait of Kate Millet appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1970 in an issue dedicated to the “Politics of Sex.” Between 1973 and 1975 she participated in at least eight exhibitions exclusively devoted to the work of women artists.


Connections


As a major figure in the art world during the last decades of her life, she had connections to a number of other artists exhibited in The Other 90 Percent. In 1970 she painted a portrait of Andy Warhol, and Warhol attended and photographed a dinner held in honor of Neel by NYC Mayor Ed Koch at Gracie Mansion in 1982. [5] She protested with Raphael Soyer, and also painted a portrait of the artist and his twin brother, the artist Moses Soyer, in 1973. In 1972 she participated in the “Conference of Women in the Visual Arts,” held at the Corcoran School of Art, in Washington, D.C., taking the opportunity to present slides of her work.

Alice Neel, Family, 1982, lithograph, ed. 68/175, 
31-1/4 x 27 inches. The George Washington 
University Permanent Collection. Gift of James 
M. Kearns, 1993. 



Artistic Style


Although, she had numerous illustrations printed in the magazine Masses and Mainstream during the forties and fifties, Neel did not begin making prints, like the one shown here, until later in her career. She worked with Judith Solodkin at Rutgers University in 1977 to produce Nancy, a lithograph, and an etching, Young Man. [6] The lithograph in the GW Permanent Collection, Family (1982), is representative of her style of portraiture: strong outlines, bold brushstrokes, and tilted perspectives create a flatness against the picture plane and often suggests the uneasiness and personal struggles of many of her sitters.






[1] National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Alice Neel, 1900-1984,” <http://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/alice-neel> Accessed 14 March, 2016.
[2] Sarah Powers, “Chronology,” in Alice Neel, exhibition catalog, June 29, 2000–December 30, 2001, Philadelphia Museum of Art and four other institutions, 159-176.
[3] Powers, 176.
[4] Powers, 169.
[5] Powers, 175.
[6] Powers, 174.

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Covering exhibits at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and giving you a peek into the Permanent Collection of the George Washington University.

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Howard Hodgkin: Paintings - May 16, 2012

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Other 90%: Alice Neel

We’re spotlighting some of the artists included in The Other 90%: Works from the GW Permanent Collection, on view now through June 3, 2016 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.


Life & Career


Alice Neel (1900-1984) was one of the most prolific American portrait painters of the twentieth century. Although abstraction was popular during the 1940s and 50s, she continued to paint in a style that depicted real people from celebrities of the art world like Andy Warhol to impoverish Neighbors in Spanish Harlem. Her gift was being able to reveal something of her sitters’ inner selves through depictions of their outer appearance.[1]

Neel was born in Merion Square, Pennsylvania and began her art education at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now known as Moore College of Art and Design), enrolled from 1921-25 Her early life was turbulent and her marriage to the artist Carlos Enriquez took her from Pennsylvania to Cuba to New York. With the death of a child and a disintegrating marriage, she suffered from anxiety and depression, which led to several suicide attempts. By 1932 she had returned to painting and to New York, where she participated in the First Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit that year. Like many artists living in New York during the 1930s, Neel joined the Public Works of Art Project (which would later become the Works Progress Administration, WPA), a government-funded program run under the Whitney Museum of American Art; she worked with the program on and off again until its termination in 1943.[2]

While she was included in a number group shows and small exhibitions during the 1940s and 50s, Neel only began to see increased recognition in the 1960s. By 1974 the Whitney Museum of American Art was holding a retrospective of her work, which many considered to be ‘too little, too late’ although she considered it a triumph. In 1984, the year of her death, she appeared twice on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, offering to paint his portrait.[3]


Activism


Neel was an activist throughout her life. She was investigated in 1955 by the FBI who had been looking into her activities with the Communist Party since 1951. Their file described her as a “romantic Bohemian type communist.” [4] In 1959, she appeared in the Beat film Pull My Daisy with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, among others. In 1968 she participated in a protest of the Whitney Museum of American Art over the exhibition 1930s Painting and Sculpture in America, because of its lack of women and African American artists, and again over the exhibition, Contemporary Black Artists in America, which was accused of being hastily organized by its curator, Robert Doty. 

She participated in a demonstration against the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, Harlem on My Mind, in 1969; she, Raphael Soyer, John Dobbs, and Mel Roman were the only white artists to attend the demonstration, organized by the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition. She also stood with the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam opposing Governor Nelson rockefeller's handling of the Attica prison riot in 1971. Her portrait of Kate Millet appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1970 in an issue dedicated to the “Politics of Sex.” Between 1973 and 1975 she participated in at least eight exhibitions exclusively devoted to the work of women artists.


Connections


As a major figure in the art world during the last decades of her life, she had connections to a number of other artists exhibited in The Other 90 Percent. In 1970 she painted a portrait of Andy Warhol, and Warhol attended and photographed a dinner held in honor of Neel by NYC Mayor Ed Koch at Gracie Mansion in 1982. [5] She protested with Raphael Soyer, and also painted a portrait of the artist and his twin brother, the artist Moses Soyer, in 1973. In 1972 she participated in the “Conference of Women in the Visual Arts,” held at the Corcoran School of Art, in Washington, D.C., taking the opportunity to present slides of her work.

Alice Neel, Family, 1982, lithograph, ed. 68/175, 
31-1/4 x 27 inches. The George Washington 
University Permanent Collection. Gift of James 
M. Kearns, 1993. 



Artistic Style


Although, she had numerous illustrations printed in the magazine Masses and Mainstream during the forties and fifties, Neel did not begin making prints, like the one shown here, until later in her career. She worked with Judith Solodkin at Rutgers University in 1977 to produce Nancy, a lithograph, and an etching, Young Man. [6] The lithograph in the GW Permanent Collection, Family (1982), is representative of her style of portraiture: strong outlines, bold brushstrokes, and tilted perspectives create a flatness against the picture plane and often suggests the uneasiness and personal struggles of many of her sitters.






[1] National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Alice Neel, 1900-1984,” <http://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/alice-neel> Accessed 14 March, 2016.
[2] Sarah Powers, “Chronology,” in Alice Neel, exhibition catalog, June 29, 2000–December 30, 2001, Philadelphia Museum of Art and four other institutions, 159-176.
[3] Powers, 176.
[4] Powers, 169.
[5] Powers, 175.
[6] Powers, 174.

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Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

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