Basel Online: 15 Rooms - Basel Online: 15 Rooms - Alice Neel | David Zwirner
A detail of a painting by Alice Neel, titled Olivia, dated 1979.
Alice Neel
A portrait of Alice Neel by Nury Hernande, dated 1975.

Alice Neel with Olivia Neel, February 18, 1975. Photo by Nury Hernandez/New York Post Archives / © NYP Holdings, Inc., via Getty Images

Alice Neel with Olivia Neel, February 18, 1975. Photo by Nury Hernandez/New York Post Archives / © NYP Holdings, Inc., via Getty Images

Alice Neel (1900–1984) is widely regarded as one of the foremost American figurative artists of the twentieth century. As the avant-garde of the 1940s and 1950s renounced representation, Neel developed her unique approach to the human body, creating daringly honest paintings of the world around her: her family, friends, neighbors, art world colleagues, writers, poets, artists, actors, activists, and more. These forthright, intimate works engage overtly and quietly with political and social issues.

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A painting by Alice Neel, titled  Olivia, dated from 1979.

Alice Neel

Olivia, 1979
Oil on canvas
50 x 25 inches
127 x 63.5 cm 
Neel was especially fascinated by children, drawn to their unstudied mien. Here, the artist’s subject—her granddaughter Olivia, around age thirteen—is shown wearing a colorful sweater whose geometric pattern enhances the composition’s play between abstraction and figuration. 
The figure is shown frontally, in an empowered and confrontational pose, seated on a high stool with her gaze directed at the viewer as if to challenge the conventional expectations and portrayals of young women.
An installation view of the exhibition, Alice Neel: Painted Truths, at White Chapel Gallery in London, dated 2010.

Installation view, Alice Neel: Painted Truths, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2010

Installation view, Alice Neel: Painted Truths, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2010

An installation view of the exhibition, Alice Neel: The Subject and Me, at Talbot Rice Gallery in Edinburgh, dated 2016.

Installation view, Alice Neel: The Subject and Me, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, 2016

Installation view, Alice Neel: The Subject and Me, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, 2016

An installation view of the exhibition, Alice Neel: Painted Truths, at White Chapel Gallery in London, dated 2010.

Installation view, Alice Neel: Painted Truths, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2010

Installation view, Alice Neel: Painted Truths, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2010

“All of [Neel’s] portraits have a keen intensity, especially the ones where the sitter’s body is outlined with her signature electric blue line. Neel herself would say that she was merely following the lead of her subjects.” —⁠Helen Molesworth
A detail of a painting by Alice Neel, titled Olivia, dated 1979.

Alice Neel, Olivia, 1979 (detail)

Alice Neel, Olivia, 1979 (detail)

A portrait of Alice Neel, dated 1944.

A portrait of Alice Neel, 1944. Photo by Sam Brody

A portrait of Alice Neel, 1944. Photo by Sam Brody


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