Oh man! I didn't post last Friday because it was only the second day of the month and I didn't feel like I had much to share. Now it's 9 days into June and I've got a whole lot to share! Sorry 'bout the overload!
I began with the image above and the quote below as sort of a teaser for the new month/new artist.
I started with that quote by Andy because one of Alice Neel's most famous pieces is this portrait of Andy Warhol, (Andy Warhol, 1970, oil and acrylic on linen.) It's considered to be one of the most intimate and vulnerable portraits of Andy...with his eyes closed and revealing the scar on his abdomen from an assassination attempt.
Alice Neel was born on January 28, 1900 to Alice Concross Hartley Neel and George Washington Neel. She was the fourth of five children. Her oldest brother, Hartley, died of diphtheria shortly after she was born. Also soon after she was born, the family moved from her birthplace of Merion Square, PA to Colwyn, PA.
Alice graduated high school in 1918 and then took courses in typing and stenography. She took the civil service exam and got a secretarial job with the army. She worked for three years while also taking evening classes at the School of Industrial Art in Philadelphia.
In 1921 she enrolled in the fine art program at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, now the Moore College of Art and Design. She paid for school with savings from her army job and later got scholarships.
In 1924, Alice Neel attended the Chester Springs summer school of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which offered an outdoor portrait class and landscape drawing/painting classes. There she met the Cuban artist Carlos Enríquez, son of a prominent family in Havana. In the spring of 1925 she graduated from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women and on June 1st she married Carlos in Colwyn, Pennsylvania.
In 1926, Carlos and Alice traveled by overnight train to Key West and then took a six-hour ride on a ship to Havana. In Cuba they lived with his parents, later an apartment, and then a house. On December 26, 1926 Alice gave birth to their daughter Santillana del Mar Enríquez.
In May 1927 Alice returned to Pennsylvania with Santillana. Carlos arrived in the Fall.
Together they moved to New York City. Alice worked in a Greenwich Village bookstore run by Fanya Foss (who she later painted). In December Santillana died of diphtheria and on Dec. 9 she was buried in the Neel family plot at the Arlington cemetery in Pennsylvania.
The trauma caused by Santillana's death infused Alice Neel's paintings, setting a precedent for themes of motherhood, loss, and anxiety. Shortly following her daughter's death, Alice became pregnant with her second child. On November 24, 1928, Isabella Lillian (called Isabetta) was born in New York City. Isabetta’s birth was the inspiration for "Well Baby Clinic", a bleak portrait of mothers and babies in a maternity clinic more reminiscent of an insane asylum than a nursery.
In the spring of 1930, Carlos gave the impression that he was going overseas to look for a place to live in Paris. Instead, he returned to Cuba, taking Isabetta with him. Alice sublet her apartment in NYC and returned to her parents’ house in Colwyn. She traveled every day to Philadelphia, where she worked at the Washington Square studio of friends from art school, Ethel Ashton and Rhoda Meyers.
In 1930, Alice's mental condition deteriorated and in October she was admitted to the hospital in Philadelphia.
In January 1931, Alice's sister sent Carlos the fare to return from Paris and he came to visit Alice in the hospital. He took her to her parents' home in Colwyn but shortly after, Alice attempted suicide by putting her head in the gas oven. She was returned to the hospital via ambulance and this time sent to the suicidal ward. Carlos returned to Paris.
In late spring, Alice was transferred to a private sanatorium in a suburb of Philadelphia where she was encouraged to continue with her painting as a sort of therapy. She was finally released in September 1931, almost 13 months after her initial breakdown.
When asked if she ever came close to having another breakdown, Alice said
Once discharged from the hospital, Alice met up with friends in New Jersey and through them she met Merchant Marine, Kenneth Doolittle.
In early 1932, she and Kenneth moved in together in Greenwich Village NYC. She painted and participated in shows. At an outdoor art exhibition in Washington Square Park, Alice met John Rothschild, a travel agent, and began a relationship with him.
[I've been doing mostly digital work over the last few weeks and that's worked well for me with the kids being out of school. But then I sat down to do my portrait yesterday I feel like I forgot how to use real paint. :( I like the digital version of her better than this one. So hmm, I may redo it or I may just use the digital one. I'll have to think about it.]
[One last thing! Clara told me that Alice Neel looks like Tina from Fantastic Beasts and I think she might be right!]