What an artist! Alice Neel was born when the last century was only four weeks old and was still painting in her eighties. She was a figurative artist - a portraitist, though that label doesn't really do her justice - working mainly in New York. She was also intensely, abidingly political.
I've just seen 'Hot Off the Griddle' at the Barbican - the largest exhibition of Neel's work ever held in the UK - and I was well impressed.
Alice Neel's 1970 portrait of Andy Warhol is what prompted me to visit the exhibition. This was painted two years after Warhol had survived an assassination attempt by Valerie Solanas, the author of the SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto - my History Workshop colleague Marybeth Hamilton has written revealingly about this portrait and its context.
Many of her portraits are nudes or of sitters partly clothed. The most striking among them is Neel's self-portrait -
The range of her palette changed markedly through her life. For many years, she lived in Harlem, and her portraits from that time have a real charge and energy - and the choice of her subjects was shaped both by her neighbourhood and her political outlook.
In the mid-1930s, she joined the Communist Party and that was a long-lasting political commitment - though she once described herself as 'an anarchic humanist'.
In the Thirties, her politics is very evident in her art - you can see it in her painting below of Longshoremen and her 1936 canvas 'Nazis Murder Jews', a representation of a torchlit protest against fascism.
And what about this for range towards the end of her life - the dour and humourless head of the CPUSA and the much more alive sex activist ... from Gus Hall to Annie Sprinkle!
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