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Mercedes Arroyo

Alice Neel American

Not on view

A social activist in East Harlem’s Puerto Rican community, Mercedes Arroyo was also a teacher at the Communist Party–affiliated Jefferson School of Social Science, where Neel took classes in the 1950s. This likeness can be seen as reflective of the artist’s sympathies for and commitments to the politics and personality of her subject. Neel portrays the usually energetic and outspoken community leader in a reflective mood, delicately perched on a chair with her face and gaze directed upward in a stance of casual heroism. As Neel declared in 1950, echoing Arroyo’s principles, no doubt, "East Harlem is like a battlefield of humanism, and I am on the side of the people there."

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Mercedes Arroyo, Alice Neel (American, Merion Square, Pennsylvania 1900–1984 New York), Oil on canvas

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