Alice Neel, American, Nancy Selvage, 1967, Oil on canvas; 96.8 x 61.3 cm (38 1/8 x 24 1/8 inches), Gift of Richard and Hartley Neel 1994.086
Alice Neel had been painting for more than forty years when she made this work. In the 1960s, when abstraction was the dominant artistic trend, she continued to paint portraits and figurative work and often chose friends and family as her subjects; Nancy Selvage (b. 1945) was an artist friend. Neel’s paintings emphasize the anatomical idiosyncrasies of her subjects through her expressionistic use of line and vivid color. Charac-teristically, she left portions of the canvas unpainted, which gave the composition an immediacy, as if it were catching a very particular moment. Neel had fleeting success with her early work and had few exhibitions until the late 1960s, when the women’s movement gained momentum and generated greater interest in her paintings.