From Library Journal
About half of her career, the superior figurative painter Neel (1900-84) found herself working against the tide of abstractionism, producing searing portraitsDimages of souls, largely acquaintances and friends. She specialized in the nude portraitDincluding one that revealed her at the age of 80Dbroadcasting the stark personal traits of each sitter: vulnerability, frank sexuality, open aggression, and the demonic. This exhibit catalog of the proud feminist's work accompanies a centennial show traveling from New York to Andover, MA, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis in the coming year. With 224 illustrations, 86 in color, and essays by curators from various museum venues, this is the most comprehensive and up-to-date view of her work, complementing Pamela Allara's biography, Pictures of People (Univ. Pr. of New England, 1998), and several filmed interviews, including Alice Neel, Painter (1989). Highly recommended for most collections.DMary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson Univ., MD
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The centennial of painter Neel's birth has inspired the first retrospective of her unsettling, psychologically acute portraits in 25 years, a reaffirmation of the sly power of her work, her unusual personality, and her courageously artistic life at a time when women artists were much maligned. As the enlightening essays gathered here attest, her bourgeois background and pleasant, blond good looks belied Neel's determination, penetrating vision, and tribulations. Her marriage to Cuban artist Carlos Enriquez ended in divorce and the loss of her two daughters, one to diphtheria, the other to her husband's relatives. Several years later, a jealous lover destroyed hundreds of her drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings. But Neel persevered, raising two sons on her own in Spanish Harlem, where she labored in near obscurity for two decades, painting portraits of neighbors, family, and acquaintances until finally achieving the serious attention she deserved. In her later years, Neel, always attuned to the outrageous and significant, painted the likes of Andy Warhol, Kate Millett, and Annie Sprinkle. Neel herself is fascinating, and her paintings startle, challenge, and engage.
--Donna Seaman Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved