Marisol, Alice Neel

Alice Neel (American, 1900–1984)

Marisol, 1981

Oil on canvas

Purchase, gifts of Clare Boothe Luce and Mr. and Mrs. Howard Wise, by exchange; Prisanlee and Robert Allerton Funds, 1988 (5717.1)

At a time when recognizable subject matter was condemned by those interested in abstraction, Alice Neel was a determined realist who devoted herself to portraiture for over half a century. Depicting her family, friends, and acquaintances, she considered herself a collector of souls, the chronicler of the "neurotic, the mad, and the miserable" who make up what she called the human comedy. Not one to flatter or sentimentalize her subjects, Neel responded intuitively to the sitter and depicted what she saw and perceived. In psychologically intense images such as this portrait of the Venezuelan sculptor Marisol, Neel abandoned the traditional elements of rigorous naturalism, distorting and manipulating the relationship of form, perspective, line, color, and anatomy to create portraits of uncompromising directness.  Seated slightly askew with awkwardly crossed legs, her long fingers entangled and her sweater an agitated pattern of stripes, Marisol exudes tenseness. Her strong features, averted gaze, and bluntly cut hair all betray the intensity of her creative personality.


Marisol Dies at age 85 NY Times article April 30, 2016