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
This portrait of the artist Nancy Selvage as a young woman is defined by its bold lines, intense colors, and the subject’s confrontational gaze. The sense of immediacy is further accentuated by the starkly non-descript background, with sections of the canvas left unpainted.
Neel reinvigorated the portrait genre by disarmingly capturing the personalities and vulnerabilities of her subjects and creating a sometimes discomforting emotional connection with the viewer. Neel’s son Hartley, who was painted many times by his mother, later said that sitting for a portrait by Neel was “like an incredibly intensive interview.”(March 12, 2010 – March 3, 2011)
In the 1960s, when abstraction was the dominant style in art, Alice Neel continued to work in a figurative mode, creating portraits of her friend and fellow artist Nancy Selvage. Using expressionistic line and vivid color, Neel captures the particular idiosyncrasies of her subject. Characteristically, she left sections of the canvas unpainted, thereby giving the portrait a sense of immediacy. After years of neglect, Neel gained recognition in her later years, as the women’s movement generated interest in the personal subject matter of her paintings.
Edited ByWoolsey, Ann, ed.
Publisher & DateMuseum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, 2008
TypeMonographs and Collections