Philip Kerr as Cuchulain in the Yeats Plays
Alice Neel (1900-1984) was born in Merion Square, PA. She was a WPA painter, later known for her unique portraiture style, although she also successfully executed a number of still lifes and landscape paintings. Some said she possessed an uncanny ability to capture the human soul, and express its fears, anxieties and vulnerabilities. In 1938 Neel moved to Spanish Harlem and successfully attempted to express her surroundings through her art. Her own style developed both independently and correspondingly with the changing art movements of the mid-20th century. She did, however, remain true to representationalism, and tended to paint or print her figures as 'honestly and objectively' as she could, depicting a mixture of beauty and painful torment. As a result, the finished product was never flattering, and thus rarely actually purchased by the sitter. Neel generally outlined her subjects in black and leaned towards obligatory spatial distortion. They had a rich texture, often achieved by a mixture of lithography and silk screen. Her portraits of well-known social and cultural entities, such as Andy Warhol, Virgil Thompson, Stewart Mott and Linus Pauling, were immensely well received. Retrospectives of her work were held in 1974 at the Georgia Museum of Art and in 1990 at New York's Sragow Gallery. Additionally, she has taken part in many solo and group exhibitions all over the world, including the Artists Union in Russia, and New York's Whitney Museum. In 1976 Neel was elected for membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and in 1979 she received the National Women's Caucus for Art Award for Outstanding Achievement in Art, presented by President Jimmy Carter. Neel's work is included in the permanent collections of many museums such as the Whitney Museum of American Art (NY), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), the National Portrait Gallery (Washington, DC), the Art Institute of Chicago (IL), and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (MA). She died in 1984 at the age of 84.