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John Perreault

Alice Neel American

Not on view

Neel painted this humorously unceremonious but also disconcertingly frank nude portrait of John Perreault (1937–2015), a curator and art critic, for an exhibition he was organizing on the subject of the male nude (Neel's painting Joe Gould also in this exhibition, likewise appeared in Perreault’s show). Perreault’s gangly, hairy limbs splay across the composition, and he boldly returns the viewer’s gaze; his piercing blue eyes signal complicity. The curator later claimed to have originated this pose, an egregious demonstration of manspreading that culminates in the full display of his genitals near the center of the canvas. By the time Neel painted Perreault, the male odalisque, an art historical trope in which the full body is exposed to the eye and arranged for maximum erotic impact, had become a familiar device of contemporary feminist painting. However, the feminist engagement with the male body in the 1970s likely struck Neel as somewhat unexceptional because she herself had created male nudes and several intimate drawings of her male lovers as early as the 1930s

John Perreault, Alice Neel (American, Merion Square, Pennsylvania 1900–1984 New York), Oil on linen

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