Best known for her paintings of the "human creature"-she disliked the term "portrait"-Alice Neel spent more than fifty years working as an artist in New York. For much of her career she received little recognition for the expressive and penetrating likenesses that she created of friends and acquaintances from her Spanish Harlem neighborhood. Described as "the quintessential bohemian," she was an artist with a strong social conscience whose work displayed compassion for the disenfranchised and an awareness of contemporary politics. Beginning in the 1960s-around the time that Fred McDarrah created this portrait in her studio-Neel began to gain wider notice. After years in which portraiture was ignored in favor of non-figurative work within the New York art world, Neel helped to bring renewed attention to the creative possibilities of this long-important artistic genre.