“[Pregnancy] isn’t what appeals to me, it’s just a fact of life. It’s a very important part of life and it was neglected. I feel as a subject it’s perfectly legitimate, and people out of false modesty, or being sissies, never showed it”
Alice Neel: Patricia Hills, Alice Neel, 1983
Throughout her career, Neel foregrounded the theme of motherhood and made paintings about mothers in different stages, both before and after birth, which are among her most radical works. Unlike the fantastical clichés about motherhood which abound in popular culture and the fine arts, Neel’s mothers are frank and specific. Her paintings and drawings empathetically reflect the challenges of childbirth and childrearing. Neel is aware of the physical and psychological pressures that come with motherhood, primarily for mothers with professional ambitions, like herself. Her nudes of pregnant women, which are unprecedented in art history, were particularly noteworthy in a society which avoided public displays of this kind of imagery.