- Bertman, Sandra
- Date of entry: May-12-2004
- Last revised: Feb-18-2012
In 1980, four years before her death at age 84, Alice Neel painted her first self-portrait. Grasping her paintbrush, the naked artist looks directly at the viewer without concern for pleasing. Bravely, she invites us to meet her fully in this deeply honest and vulnerable space.
The hard vertical bars of the chair encircle her soft and abundant flesh. One arm is raised in readiness for work, the other hangs limp, mimicking the heavy droop of her breasts and stomach. Eyeglasses hint at frailty yet proclaim her as one who sees. These opposing elements mark her singularity.
Alice Neel. Ann Temkin, Ed. (New York: Harry N. Abrams, with the Philadelphia Museum of Art) 2000, plate 72. Or Dittrich, L. Ed. Ten Years of Medicine and the Arts. (Washington, D.C.: Association of American Medical Colleges) 2001, p. 126.