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Alice Neel

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01/28/1900 - 10/13/1984

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Born in Pennsylvania, Neel was an American artist known for her portraits depicting friends, family, celebrities, and acquaintances in an expressionistic and honest manner. Neel was educated at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and embraced the teachings of the Ashcan School of Realism in her work. A few years after she married, Neel gave birth to her first daughter, who died shortly thereafter. After experiencing the death of her firstborn, her work shifted to heavier themes such as motherhood, loss, and anxiety. During the summer of 1930, after her husband took their second daughter and left her in New York, Neel began to paint her first female Nudes. Neel’s work portrayed the female form that was uncommon at the time. Instead of portraying the nude female form as an object to be desired, she painted women in an honest and emotional manner. One of her most well-known female nudes was that of Ethel Ashton, a school friend, and fellow artist. During the Great Depression, Neel was one of the first contributors to the Works Progress Administration, for which she painted urban scenes. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Neel continued to paint nudes, some of which contained sexual undertones. She gained recognition and became an icon for feminism in the 1960s, during which she moved to the Upper West Side of New York City and executed nudes of pregnant women. One of Neel’s last paintings was a seated nude of herself at 80 years old. Following suit with her other female nudes, she painted what she considered to be a truthful picture of herself. Neel’s work has been exhibited in the United States and Europe and much of her paintings are housed in museum collections across the country.

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