The Portraits

Staff member working in collections and putting a painting away

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
Restrictions & 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 compassionate quality in the figure studies for which she is best known. Neel adhered to portraiture in the midstof 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, Neel began this shocking, endearing, and utterly unconventional self-portrait, one of only two she ever made. She took five years to complete the work and later, recalling the process, said, "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 openly accepting of her aging body.
Alice Neel "arroja lanzas que dan en el blanco pero no hieren", dijo un crítico aludiendo al carácter penetrante y aun así compasivo de los estudios de figuras que le dieron fama a la artista. Neel adoptó el género del retrato en pleno auge del expresionismo abstracto, lo cual implicó que fuera ignorada por el mundo del arte hasta poco antes de dos exposiciones retrospectivas de su obra durante la década de 1970. "¡La vida comienza a los setenta!", declaró a raíz de este giro en su carrera. En 1975 Neel comenzó este autorretrato chocante, tierno y totalmente inusual, uno de solo dos que hizo en su vida. Tardó cinco años en completarlo y al recordar el proceso comentó: "Las mejillas quedaron tan rosadas porque me costó tanto trabajo pintar este cuadro que casi muero en el intento". Impactante reto a la centenaria tradición del ideal femenino, este único autorretrato en pintura de Neel es una abierta aceptación de su cuerpo envejeciente.
Provenance
The artist; her estate; sold through (Robert Miller Gallery, New York); purchased 1985 NPG
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Exhibition
Eye to I: Self-Portraits from 1900 to Today
On View
NPG, West Gallery 250