The Portraits

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Alice Neel Self-Portrait

Artist
Alice Neel, 28 Jan 1900 - 13 Oct 1984
Sitter
Alice Neel, 28 Jan 1900 - 13 Oct 1984
Date
1980
Type
Painting
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
Stretcher: 135.3 x 101 x 2.5cm (53 1/4 x 39 3/4 x 1")
Frame: 144.8 x 109.2 x 5.1cm (57 x 43 x 2")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Rights
© Estate of Alice Neel,1980
Object number
NPG.85.19
Exhibition Label
In making a portrait, one critic observed, Alice Neel "hurls shafts that hit the mark but do not sting," pinpointing the penetrating yet benevolent quality in the figure studies for which she is best known. Neel adhered to portraiture in the midst of the abstract expressionist movement and was consequently ignored by the art world until shortly before two retrospective exhibitions held during the early 1970s. "Life begins at seventy!" she said of her career's newfound transformation.
In 1975, she began this shocking, endearing, and utterly unconventional self-portrait, which was not completed until 1980. As Neel noted, "the reason my cheeks got so pink was that it was so hard for me to paint that I almost killed myself painting it." A striking challenge to the centuries-old convention of idealized femininity, Neel's only painted self-portrait is wonderfully suggestive of her bohemian, bawdy character.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
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National Portrait Gallery Collection
Exhibition
20th Century Americans: 1950 to 1990
On View
NPG, South Gallery 342