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Alice Neel: People Come First

Baum, Kelly, and Randall Griffey, with contributions by Meredith A. Brown, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Susanna V. Temkin
256 pages
201 illustrations
8 x 11.5 in.
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"For me, people come first," Alice Neel (1900–1984) declared in 1950. "I have tried to assert the dignity and eternal importance of the human being." This ambitious publication surveys Neel's nearly 70-year career through the lens of her radical humanism. Remarkable portraits of victims of the Great Depression, fellow residents of Spanish Harlem, leaders of political organizations, queer artists, visibly pregnant women, and members of New York's global diaspora reveal that Neel viewed humanism as both a political and philosophical ideal. In addition to these paintings of famous and unknown sitters, the more than 100 works highlighted include Neel's emotionally charged cityscapes and still lifes as well as the artist’s erotic pastels and watercolors. Essays tackle Neel's portrayal of LGBTQ subjects; her unique aesthetic language, which merged abstraction and figuration; and her commitment to progressive politics, civil rights, feminism, and racial diversity. The authors also explore Neel's highly personal preoccupations with death, illness, and motherhood while reasserting her place in the broader cultural history of the 20th century.

Dutch Girl in White, Robert Henri  American, Oil on canvas, American
La Berceuse (Woman Rocking a Cradle; Augustine-Alix Pellicot Roulin, 1851–1930), Vincent van Gogh  Dutch, Oil on canvas
Water, Charles Sheeler  American, Oil on canvas
Male and Female Models Sitting on the Floor, Philip Pearlstein  American, Oil on canvas
Blind Beggars, Jacob Lawrence  American, Tempera on illustration board
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), Jackson Pollock  American, Enamel on canvas
Mother and Child (Baby Getting Up from His Nap), Mary Cassatt  American, Oil on canvas, American
ca. 1899
Young Sailor II, Henri Matisse  French, Oil on canvas
Dick Bagley, Alice Neel  American, Oil on canvas
Elenka, Alice Neel  American, Oil on canvas
Henry Geldzahler, Alice Neel  American, Oil on canvas

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Baum, Kelly, Randall R. Griffey, Meredith A. Brown, Julia Bryan-Wilson, and Susanna V. Temkin. 2021. Alice Neel: People Come First [Exhibition, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from March 15 through August 1, 2021, at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao from September 17, 2021, through January 30, 2022, and at the de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, from March 12 through July 10, 2022]. New York New Haven London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Distributed by Yale University Press.