More about Alice Neel Self-Portrait

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Sartle is all about empowered females and there's no doubt that Alice Neel falls into this category.

You go girl! Neel spent her fruitful career painting the people around her, yet she never endeavored to turn the tables and paint herself until the spry age of 75. It was actually her son who encouraged her to make this risqué self-portrait. Interesting mother-son relationship, if you ask me. The task of painting herself proved more challenging than many of her other paintings, and ultimately took her five years to complete. At the age of 80, she finally put the finishing touches on this radical piece. 

Neel has been dubbed “a compulsive truth teller” and no painting she made better represents this idea than her self-portrait. We live in a shallow image-based culture. We glorify youth and ignore the inevitable wear of time. This painting obliterates those ideals and lets her weathered body all hang out! She stares you down, inviting you to experience both her raw vulnerability and uncanny confidence. Neel is nothing if not self-possessed!

This portrait is a response to the traditional nude and an attempt to celebrate the soul’s beauty rather than surface attractiveness. With that goal in mind, I think she hit the nail right on the head. While this painting may not evoke the raunchy gratification of a classic sexy nude, it does give me mad respect for Alice Neel. Any woman who has the confidence to show the world what real bodies look like is okay by me.