Alice Neel’s Populist Paintings

Jillian Steinhauer at The Nation:

Neel took the call to realism to heart: She went out into the streets of Philadelphia to paint and attended a local sketch club where the models were ordinary people. (She was also part of the first generation of female art students allowed to study live male nudes.) The path of realism reflected how Neel understood her place in the world. “I had a conscience about going to art school,” she said. “Because when I’d go into the school, the scrub-women would be coming back from scrubbing office floors all night. It killed me that these old gray-headed women had to scrub floors, and I was going in there to draw Greek statues.”

In 1924, while away at summer school in the nearby countryside, Neel met the first in a line of men with whom she would have tumultuous relationships as well as children: the painter Carlos Enríquez, who came from a wealthy, landed Cuban family. Enríquez and Neel fell in love and quickly wed, then moved to Havana, where their lives were a study in class contrast.

more here.