Alice Neel with her paintings at her Spanish Harlem apartment in 1944. Courtesy of Sam Brody, via SeeThink Films
“An uncommonly rich work of cinematic portraiture.”
Portrait painter Alice Neel (1900-1984) was a self-described collector of souls who recorded her sitters on canvas through six decades of the 20th century, among them Andy Warhol, Bella Abzug, Allen Ginsberg and Annie Sprinkle. Neel always sought the “authentic,” moving from Greenwich Village to Spanish Harlem just as the Village was gaining reputation in the art scene. She sacrificed almost everything for her art, delving so far into the psyches of her sitters she would almost lose herself. Yet Neel was also a dedicated mother, raising two sons in the bohemian world she inhabited. Filmmaker Andrew Neel, Alice Neel’s grandson, puts together the pieces of the painter’s life using intimate one-on-one interviews with Neel’s surviving family and personal archival video. The documentary explores the artist’s tumultuous biography and the legacy of Alice Neel’s determination to paint her era.