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Alice Neel

Neel with her painting,

Self-Portrait, 1980

"The place where I had freedom was when I painted.  When I painted I was completely and utterly myself.  For that reason it was extremely important to me."

American Artist

1900 - 1984


            Do you feel free when you are creating?  Is the act of creation a liberating experience for you?  If it is not a freeing experience, then maybe you are working on the wrong subject.  The act of creating should open you up and free your spirit.  Life may restrict and limit us with work, family, housing and food, but painting and writing should take us to worlds with no limits or restrictions.  We should be free to paint and write as we choose.  Don't let others impose their ideas on your art.  Be yourself when you create and let your spirit lead you and inspire you.

Creative Practice:

          Using this quote as a starting point, write for ten minutes every day this week about what freedom to create means to you.  Compare what you wrote on day one with what you wrote on day 7.  What changed and what stayed the same?  Then share your best writing here.

About the Artist

My Mother


        Alice Neel was born in Merion Square, Pennsylvania on January 28, 1900.  She was the fourth child of Alice Hartley and George Neel.  After high school, Neel held a secretarial job with the Army Air Corps for 3 years and took art classes in the evening.  In 1925 she graduated from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.

      On June 1, 1925, Neel married Cuban painter, Carlos Enriquez.  She gave birth to her first daughter in December of 1926.  Her daughter died just before her first birthday.  Her second daughter was born in 1928.

        In 1930 Enriquez traveled to Cuba with their second daughter and left her in the care of his sisters while he traveled to Spain. Later that year, Neel suffered a nervous breakdown and was hospitalized.  She attempted suicide several times.  Although they never divorced, Neel and Enriquez never saw each other after 1933.

        After Neel's separation from Enriquez, she had several lovers.  One of her lovers in a fit of rage burned over 300 of her drawings and watercolors.  He also slashed more than 50 oil paintings.  In 1939, Neel gave birth to her son, Richard.  Jose Santiago Negron, a nightclub singer, was the father.  A second son was born in 1941.  The father was Sam Brody, a photographer and filmmaker.  They had a relationship for two decades even though Brody was married.

Documentary Trailer

Solo Exhibitions:

1926, Havana, Cuba

1938, New York, Contemporary Arts

1944, New York, The Pinacotheca

1950, New York, A.C.A. Gallery

1951, New York, New Playwrights Theater

1960, Tinton Falls, New Jersey, Old Mill Gallery

1962, Portland, Oregon, Reed College

1963, New York, Graham Gallery

1965, New York, Graham Gallery

1965, Hanover, New Hampshire, Dartmouth College

1965, New York, Fordham University

1967, San Francisco, Maxwell Galleries

1968, New York, Graham Gallery

1970, New York, Graham Gallery

1971, Philadelphia, Moore College of Art and Design

1972, Bowling Green, Ohio, Bowling Green State University

1972, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg State College

1972, Nairobi, Kenya, Paa Ya Paa Art Gallery

1973, Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, Langman Gallery

1973, New York, Graham Gallery

1974, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art

1974, Tinton Falls, New Jersey, Old Mill Gallery

1974, Summit, New Jersey, Summit Art Center

1975, Portland, Oregon, Portland Center for the Visual Arts

1975, San Francisco, American Can Collective

1975, Geneva, New York, Hobart and William Smith College

1975, Northampton, Massachusetts, Smith College Museum of Art

1975, Stockon, California, University of the Pacific

1975, Athens, Georgia, University of Georgia

1976, New York, Graham Gallery

1976, Glenside, Pennsylvania, Beaver College Art Gallery

1976, Washington, D.C., Fendrick Gallery

1976, Wallingford, Connecticut, Paul Mellon Arts Center

1977, Hagerstown, Maryland, Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

1977, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin

1977, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Lehigh University

1977, Flushing, New York, Queens College

1977, New York, Graham Gallery

1978,  9 Solo Exhibitions

1979, 8 Solo Exhibitions

1980, 4 Solo Exhibitions

1981, 6 Solo Exhibitions

1982, 1 Solo Exhibition

1983, 4 Solo Exhibitions

1984, 3 Solo Exhibitions

1985 - 2011, 41 Solo Exhibitions (After her death)

Biography Sources:

Quote Source:

Clint Brown, Artist to Artist, p. 163.
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