One of the most important poets of postwar America, Frank O'Hara was a leader in making American verse more intimate and personal. His style was direct and immediate, and his topics were generated from his day-to-day encounters with people and places. (O'Hara was a curator at the Museum of Modern Art and wrote poetry during his lunch hour.) His relaxed, humorous, and offhand style hid the deep seriousness with which he took his art and his subjects. His irony was instead a defensive mechanism, a tendency toward obliqueness that provided cover in a society that was threatening to gay men. O'Hara also kept much of his life hidden from his closest friends, while at the same time he allowed himself to become the subject of many of America's leading artists. The American realist Alice Neel captured O'Hara's distinctive profile, which she described as "a romantic falconlike profile with a bunch of lilacs."
Hartley S. Neel, Stowe, Vt., son of artist; gift 1996 to NPG