New York Times: Artist Raised in Colwyn Captured New York’s People in Paintings

Figurative artist Alice Neel.
Image via Archives of American Art Facebook page.

Artist Alice Neel used her New York apartment in her painting settings, but to find her origins, you have to go back to Colwyn.

Neel painted her subjects in the various New York apartments where she lived, but she grew up in Colwyn.

She showed a talent for art early, drawing the flowers around her family home, writes Rennie McDougall for The New York Times.

Neel’s realism went on to capture New Yorkers and their city.  She moved to Harlem in 1938, away from Greenwich Village where she had lived.

Neel saw herself as an outside and hated convention, preferring the diversity of uptown New York.

“I … hate the conformity of today,” she wrote in the artist Alfred Leslie’s anthology “The Hasty Papers” in 1960, “everything put into its box.”

Neel was out of step with the 20th Century art world for much of her six decade career, favoring figurative painting over Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art or postmodernism.

She made little money and raised her children on government assistance.

Her art work reflects a clear-eyed compassion toward humans from all walks of life, displaying a deep inferiority of her subjects.

Read more at The New York Times about Alice Neel.

Here’s a wonderful short documentary about and featuring Alice Neel from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.