Nov. 18 Art Minute: Alice Neel, ‘Nancy and the Rubber Plant’

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Alice Neel (American, 1900–1984), Nancy and the Rubber Plant. Oil on canvas, 1975. 80 x 36 in. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Toledo Museum of Art, 2016.8. Gallery 4

Alice Neel (American, 1900–1984), Nancy and the Rubber Plant. Oil on canvas, 1975. 80 x 36 in. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Toledo Museum of Art, 2016.8. Gallery 4

In her 1984 New York Times obituary, she was called “the quintessential bohemian.” Overlooked by the art establishment until the final decades of her long career, Alice Neel is now regarded as one of the great painters of the twentieth century. Neel’s portraits of friends, family, and acquaintances are arresting in their ability to simultaneously capture physical likeness and insight into the psychology of the sitter.

Her work was not widely known until her third act, when the feminist movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s helped breathe renewed interest in her art. Nancy and the Rubber Plant, finished during this time of critical acclaim, featured a frequent subject: Neel’s daughter-in-law and studio assistant.

The portrait’s boldly-colored, realistic portrayal is evidence of Neel at the height of her career. Though it was painted in 1975, Nancy and the Rubber Plant, like many of Neel’s portraits, could live comfortably in the twenty-first century, where her artistic influence continues to be felt.


4 Responses to “Nov. 18 Art Minute: Alice Neel, ‘Nancy and the Rubber Plant’”

  1. This is a fabulous picture. I thought, at first, it was a Matisse (one of my favorite artists) and when I saw it wasn’t I got a whole new look at it. I think it’s a fabulous addition to the museum.

  2. Bob Moran says:

    We are real fans of Alice Neel. Her daughter lives in Stowe, VT and actively supports the arts through The Helen Day Art Center.

  3. Stephanie Elton says:

    That’s wonderful, Bob! Thanks for sharing.


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