Artworks
John Perreault
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It was Alice Neel’s goal to strip away barriers that distort our perception of her subjects… quite literally in the case of John Perreault.

I am left to assume that Mr. Perreault is a self-assured man who has been known to rock a speedo from time to time. Gotta love those tan lines! When he wasn’t sunning, John Perreault was a poet, art critic and curator. In the early 1970’s, Perreault was curating an exhibition about the male nude. He approached Neel to ask her if he could use her painting of Joe Gould for the show, as it had never been exhibited due to its risqué and controversial content. (I guess most individuals aren’t okay with paintings of people who have penises growing out of their belly button.) Neel retorted that she would prefer to paint a nude of Perreault himself and being the spunky lad he was, he happily agreed.

Neel said she wanted to paint Perreault for a long time, because he reminded her of a faun- a mythical woodland creature who is half human, half goat. Clearly Neel has some sort of creepy clairvoyance, for Perreault claims he always identified with the spirit of the faun and even dressed up as one once for Halloween. I totally see it. I think it’s the hairy chest and mustache.

We’re not sure if she had a crush on the guy or what, but Neel slaved over this portrait, obsessing and perfecting over every detail...especially the penis. Perreault had to hang trou seventeen times before she was satisfied with her creation. She saved the best for last and painted his junk at the end. It paid off: Perreault reports that his penis is much smaller IRL, so he was quite satisfied with Neel taking some artistic license.

This painting was a total slam-dunk for both Neel’s career and Perreault’s love life, but they weren’t the only two who were pleased. Tom Armstrong, the retired director of the Whitney Museum, loved the thing so much he hung it in his dining room. Nothing like a side of testes to whet the appetite.