Alice Neel (American, 1900-1984) 

Neel perfected capturing endearing portraits of her subjects, which she often painted on commission. She also worked for the Works Progress Administration and became involved in the Communist Party. Artists, intellectuals, and political leaders would become the subjects of her paintings, as well as her neighbors in Spanish Harlem, many of whom were women and children. She showcased her distaste with the Western style of art which depicted women as passive, ageless subjects of the male gaze through her use of rich lines, asymmetrical angles, and deep shadows.

Neel was born in Pennsylvania and graduated from Moor College of Art and Design in 1925. Her work began to be widely shown in the 1960s, and her first major exhibit debuted at her alma mater in 1971. In 1974, she exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, followed by the Georgia Museum of Art the next year. Neel is now collected at the Art Institute of Chicago; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Tate, London. In 1976, Neel received the International Women’s Year Award and, in 1979, the National Women’s Caucus Art Award.