Portrait of Alice Neel 1976-1982 is an intimate record of the artist by the Brooklyn-based filmmaker Michel Auder. The two became friends in 1975 when Neel (1900-1984) was living on the Upper West Side, just south of Harlem. As Auder recalled in an interview with Art in America, "I met her when she was 75 years old, just socially. She was sitting in a chair at a party, and going "Oh, you have such a long nose ... And that chin, like a Roman emperor!" She would do that to everyone." A close relationship developed between Neel and her portraitist, who would visit her often. Drawing on extensive footage he shot of Neel over the course of their five year friendship—at home, while painting, on vacation, and in public—Auder's film is a revelatory and tender document of the artist's life.
Born in France in 1945, Auder bought his first portable video camera in 1969. Moving to New York City the same year, he became immersed in the downtown art scene, and was a pioneer of early video art influenced by Warhol's screen tests and French New Wave directors such as Jean-Luc Godard. The analogue vignettes with which Auder captures Neel are typical of some his works, which are characterized by a chronicling of daily life with low-quality cameras in a raw and experimental style. Following its initial release in 1986, a longer version of the film was produced in 1999 with funding from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Watch: "A Portrait of a Painter"
This New York Times video clip from 2007 features an excerpt from Michel Auder's film
Read: "Alice Neel's Love of Harlem and the Neighbors She Painted There"
The New York Times review of Alice Neel, Uptown by Jason Farago
Image courtesy the artist and Martos Gallery, New York