Alice Neel- Robert, Helen and Ed (circa 1952)

Ze hield niet van de term ‘paintings’ voor haar werk, maar had het liever over ‘pictures of people’ en dan kun je dat alvast invullen met ‘Black and Puerto Rican children, pregnant mothers and gay couples — not the people, in other words, adorning gallery walls at the time. (NY Times Style magazine) met daarbij de belangstelling voor hun ‘psychological depht’. Ik verzamel ‘zielen’, zei ze.

“Time doesn’t mark it. You react immediately as though they are alive — as though it were now.” This desire to capture a person precisely as she saw them is what stimulated Neel. As she said of her subjects, “I go so out of myself and into them that, after they leave, I sometimes feel horrible. I feel like an untenanted house.” (Philip Bonosky writer)
Alice Neel, The Spanish Family, 1943, oil on canvas, 34 × 28″. © The Estate of Alice Neel.

Haar ‘painted-flecked smock hangt nog aan de ezel en de ‘olijfgroene sofa in haar Upper West Side-appartement zie je terug op het schilderij ‘ Linda Nochlin and Daisy’ (1973)

Linda Nochlin and Daisy (1973)
Neel grew up in Colwyn, Pa., just outside of Philadelphia. She showed an affinity for painting at an early age, drawing the flowers around her family home. In the early 1920s, as a student at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, she took a life drawing class; she was among the first generation of American women permitted to study nude models in art school. The artist Robert Henri, who taught there before Neel arrived, was an enduring influence; Henri was a proponent of the Ashcan School, an early 20th-century movement that rejected the gauzy gesturalism of Impressionism in favor of a more straightforward realism. Through Neel’s eyes, that realism would become one in which New Yorkers saw themselves and their city reflected.
(NY Times Style magazine Alice Neel's appartement is still a portrait of the artist at work  Rennie McDougall)
A self-portrait by Alice Neel, aged 80

Haar boeiend leven, ze werd 84, vind je in een website aan haar gewijd en wordt daar van allerlei documentatie voorzien. Boeiend!

Untitled (Baby in highchair) 1930s oil on canvas 58 x 49 cm

Haar doel ‘capture the zeitgeist’ klinkt wel mooi en je vindt in haar werk de oprechte belangstelling voor de medemens van allerlei leeftijd, strekking en afkomst, maar ik denk dat het vooral haar compromisloosheid is die ons blijft boeien, waarmee ze haar ‘onderwerpen’ in hun waarde laat, los van modes en stijlen waarmee haar eeuw overladen was.

Alice Neel (Estate of Alice Neel)
Two Puerto Rican Boys Jeff and Mei Ze 1956
Because Neel worked in a figurative style during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, her early work received limited attention until the 1970s. During the last decades of her life, however, Neel achieved great success, including a National Women’s Caucus for Art award presented by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.
Neel’s greatness lies in the different levels of realism she combines in her art. They include social and economic inequities; the body’s deterioration through time; and the complex interior lives of her subjects. There’s the reality of Neel’s own personality, ever-present in her work; her insatiable curiosity about people; and her instinct for pushing the envelope, especially by cajoling her sitters to pose nude. The realities of her tumultuous life are a constant, too. We see her family, lovers, children (from three different fathers), friends, neighbors (and their children) in Spanish Harlem and denizens of the New York art world. Life’s tragedies included the death of her first child, a daughter, from diphtheria, and the destruction of much of her early work at the hands of a jealous lover.
(New York Times, Roberta Smith April 1 2020, updated July 12, 2021)
Alice Neel Nancy and Olivia (1967)
And let’s not forget the dazzling reality of Neel’s paintings as objects, the insistence of her color, light and flattened compositions, the undisguised preliminaries, drawn in blue, and her surface textures. Thick strokes of paint alternate with loosely brushed backgrounds, outlines and patches of empty canvas — all possibly absorbed from Abstract Expressionism. Somewhat like their loquacious maker, Neel’s paintings refuse to shut up and part of their power is their ability to remain abstract. “I don’t think there is any great painting that doesn’t have good abstract qualities” she announced late in life. And yet in their depictions of individual beings, Neel’s images go beyond painting in her figures’ psychic honesty, they press out at us, like an unusually tactile version of photography. They have, as one writer put it, “an overkill of likeness,” reminiscent of visceral avidity of the photographs of Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus.(ibidem)
‘Cindy Nemser and Chuck’ 1975 Estate of Alice Neel

En laten we vooral niet de verblindende realiteit van Neel’s schilderijen als objecten vergeten, de vasthoudendheid van haar kleur, licht en afgeplatte composities, de onverhulde, in blauw getekende voorrondes en haar oppervlakte-texturen. Dikke verfstreken wisselen af met losjes geborstelde achtergronden, contouren en vlekken van leeg canvas – alles mogelijk geabsorbeerd uit het Abstract Expressionisme. Net als hun spraakzame maker weigeren Neel’s schilderijen te zwijgen en een deel van hun kracht is hun vermogen om abstract te blijven. “Ik denk niet dat er een groot schilderij is dat geen goede abstracte kwaliteiten heeft” kondigde ze laat in haar leven aan. En toch gaan Neel’s beelden in hun weergave van individuele wezens verder dan schilderkunst in de psychische eerlijkheid van haar figuren, ze drukken zich aan ons uit, als een ongewoon tactiele versie van fotografie. Ze hebben, zoals een schrijver het uitdrukte, “een overkill aan gelijkenis”, die doet denken aan de viscerale gretigheid van de foto’s van Richard Avedon en Diane Arbus. (ibidem)

Neel’s drawing of Georgie Arce, from 1955.Credit…Estate of Alice Neel, David Zwirner, New York/London; Private Collection
“Sue Seely and her Husband,” 1948 by Alice Neel. (Estate of Alice Neel)

Ga zelf zwerven tussen haar verzamelde ‘zielen’, voel de aandacht, de gedrevenheid die fouten en onnauwkeurigheden onmiddellijk laten vergeten. Kijk hoe ze evolueert. Volg haar op die lange reis tussen 1900 en 1984 en draag enkele van haar werken mee in je herinneringen aan het mooie dat mensen verbindt, ouderdomn, afkomst, geslacht, kleur, totaal onbelangrijk.

2 gedachtes over “Verzamelaar van zielen, Alice Neel (1900-1984)

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