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.