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Investigation of Poverty at the Russell Sage Foundation

Alice Neel American

Not on view

Neel’s years living in Greenwich Village corresponded with the darkest years of the Great Depression, the difficult conditions of which she captured in many works from the period. Her composition shows a desperate homeless mother of seven and two indigent men pleading their cases to members of the Russell Sage Foundation. Established by Margaret O. Sage in 1907 to improve social and living conditions in the United States, the foundation, Neel later recalled, "never gave a penny to the poor, but they investigated the poor." Neel produced this painting while employed by the short-lived Public Works of Art Program, an early part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal that supported artists. It marks a rare instance where she relied on a preliminary sketch Men from Bleecker Street also in this exhibition) of her subject.

Investigation of Poverty at the Russell Sage Foundation, Alice Neel (American, Merion Square, Pennsylvania 1900–1984 New York), Oil on canvas

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Courtesy of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia