Alice Neel

Born: 1900

Died: 1984

Hometown: Merion Square, PA


Education: Philadelphia School of Design for Women, 1925

Alice Neel Bio

About The Artist

A pioneer among women artists, Alice Neel is considered one of the great American painters of the 20th century. She is most famous for her provocative and insightful portraits of people from all walks of life—family, friends, lovers, artists, poets, strangers, children—executed from the 1920s to the 1980s.

Neel challenged the artistic conventions of her time by pursuing a career as a figurative painter when her contemporaries favored abstraction. Her style channels Expressionism, in which things are presented subjectively, allowing color and texture to express emotion rather than strict reality. Unafraid to draw on her own personal tragedies, she often exposed both her own and the vulnerability of her subjects in her work. She once said, "You should keep on painting no matter how difficult it is, because this is all part of experience, and the more experience you have, the better it is… unless it kills you, and then you know you have gone too far."

Toward the end of her career, Neel's focus on the status of women led her to become an icon for feminists. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter awarded her with a National Women's Caucus for Art lifetime achievement award. At her death in 1984, Neel was considered one of the most important artists of her time.


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