Alice Neel was one of the great American painters of the twentieth century, and a pioneer among women artists. A painter of people, landscape and still life, Neel was never fashionable or in step with avant-garde movements. Neel was born near Philly and trained at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. She became a painter with a strong social conscience and equally strong left-wing beliefs. In the 1930s she lived in Greenwich Village, NY and enrolled as a member of the Works Progress Administration for which she painted urban scenes. Her portraits of the 1930s embraced left wing writers, artists and trade unionists. Neel left Greenwich Village for Spanish Harlem in 1938 and painted the Puerto Rican community. However in the 1960s she moved to the Upper West Side in an effort to reintegrate into the art world, which led to a series of dynamic portraits of artists, curators and gallery owners, including Frank O'Hara, Andy Warhol and Robert Smithson. She also maintained her practice of painting political personalities, including black activists and supporters of the women's movement.
Alice Neel inspires me in the same way as Diane Arbus does... both artists created out of a pure, genuine interest in human pyschology and community involvement... both women worked intuitively rather than following aesthetic trends... thus forming distinct styles, and contributing new ideas to the world of art.