Alice Neel

“I don’t think there is any great painting that doesn’t have good abstract qualities”
Alice Neel: Werner Groshans, 1979 and n.d., Werner and Yetta Groshans papers (1926–1997)

The artist’s opinion on abstraction was not immutable throughout her career. When figuration went out of fashion in the 1940s and 1950s and Abstract Expressionism took over, especially in New York, Neel refused to alter or abandon her style. In this context, she publicly criticized abstraction and described it as “anti-humanistic.” However, towards the end of her career Neel’s reflection that all great paintings have “good abstract qualities” indicates that formal and technical experimentation were always a part of her practice. This can particularly be seen in her cityscapes and still lifes: beyond what their titles describe, these rigorously composed paintings are pictorial meditations on the relationships between colors, lines, and shapes.