Still Lifes

“When you go to art school you do bottles. I had these beautiful bottles. It was like doing a thing that you did many years ago and then doing it again. I love the feeling in this”
Alice Neel: Patricia Hills, Alice Neel, 1983

Another genre that did not escape Neel’s insightful paintbrush is the still life, which provided her with appealing opportunities to experiment with abstraction and reveal her humor, as exemplified in her particular depiction of Thanksgiving. Just like in her portraits, from early on Neel’s still lifes boast an intimacy which is unusual in this genre and reflects the fleetingness of our world through the ephemeral nature of the different items. In fact, the artist even used this genre to pay tribute to a deceased friend in a work that also has connotations associated with a Baroque vanitas. After all, a still life is also a portrait of absences, as behind any object arranged or prepared to be immortalized there is a meditated human choice.