Alice Neel papers, 1933-1983

A Finding Aid to the Alice Neel Papers, 1933-1983, in the Archives of American Art, by Jean Fitzgerald and Erin Kinhart

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Table of Contents:

Biographical Information

Alice Neel (1900-1984) was a painter in New York, NY. She was known for her portraits of New York artists and intellectuals. Neel studied painting at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now the Moore College of Art and Design) from 1921-1925. She married Cuban artist Carlos EnrĂ­quez, and they briefly lived in Havana, Cuba. After the break-up of their marriage, she settled in New York City. During the 1930s she worked for the Public Works of Art Project and the Works Progress Administration, painting scenes of urban poverty and developing her distinctive portrait style. She pursued a career as a figurative painter during a period when abstraction was favored, and she did not begin to gain critical praise for her work until the 1960s. Neel received an honorary doctorate from the Moore College of Art and Design in 1971 and a retrospective of her work was held at the Whitney Museum in 1974. During the last decade of her life she finally received extensive national recoginition for her paintings. Neel was also a notable public speaker and often spoke on the topic of women artists.

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Overview of the Collection

Scope and Contents

The papers of New York painter Alice Neel measure 1.0 linear foot and date from 1933 to 1983. The bulk of the collection documents the last fifteen years of Neel's career as an artist. Found within the papers are letters from galleries, museums, and art organizations; writings and notes by Neel; exhibition catalogs, clippings, and other printed material; and photographs depicting Neel, exhibitions, and her artwork.

Arrangement and Series Description

The collection is arranged as # series:

Subjects and Names

This collection is indexed in the online catalog of the Archives of American Art under the following terms:


  • Painters--New York (State)--New York
  • Portrait painters--New York (State)--New York
  • Portrait painting--20th century--United States
  • Women artists--New York (State)--New York

Types of Materials:

  • Notes
  • Photographs


The collection was donated from 1974 to 1983 by Alice Neel.

Separated and Related Materials

Also found in the Archives of American Art are printed material on Romare Bearden, Alice Neel, and Howard Newman, 1975-1990, compiled by Dennis Florio, and a videorecording of "Art and Alice Neel," 1975, recorded as part of University of Georgia Television station WGTV's "Forum" program.

How the Collection was Processed

The collection was processed by Jean Fitzgerald in 1990. Funding for the processing, microfilming, and cataloging was provided by the Bay Foundation. A finding aid was written in 2011 by Erin Kinhart.

How to Use the Collection

Restrictions on Use

Use of original papers requires an appointment.

Ownership & Literary Rights

The Alice Neel papers are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.

Available Formats

The collection is available on 35 mm microfilm reel 4964 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan.

How to Cite this Collection

Alice Neel papers, 1933-1983. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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Detailed Description and Container Inventory

Series 1: Letters, circa 1968-1983
(Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)

Letters are from galleries, museums, and art organizations and primarily concern Neel's work and art related activities. Also found are holiday and birthday cards from friends as well as fan mail. Included among the letters from 1977 are two color snapshots of Neel.

Letters are arranged chronologically.

Box Folder
1 1-3 Letters, 1968-1976
(3 folders)
1 4-7 Letters, 1977
(4 folders)
1 8-10 Letters, 1978
(3 folders)
1 11-14 Letters, 1979
(4 folders)
1 15-18 Letters, 1980
(4 folders)
1 19 Letters, 1981-1983
1 20 Letters, undated

Series 2: Writings and Notes, circa 1960-1979
(Box 1; 2 folders)

This series includes artists' statements, Neel's acceptance speech for her degree, her Bloomsburg State College lecture, a one page reminiscence on Anton Refregier, and miscellaneous notes.

Box Folder
1 21 Notes, undated
1 22 Writings, 1960-1979

Series 3: Printed Material, 1933-1983
(Box 1; 0.6 linear feet)

Printed material primarily document's Neels late career from 1970 to 1983. Included are announcements and exhibiton catalogs for solo and group shows, newspaper and magazine articles about Neel, and scattered press releases, flyers, and event brochures. Also found is a journal, Mother Number Six, which includes reproductions of Neel's portraits of Joe Gould.

Box Folder
1 23 Press Releases, undated
1 24 Exibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1933-1967
1 25 Exibition Announcements and Catalogs, 1970-1983
(10 folders)
1 35 Exibition Announcements and Catalogs, undated
1 36 Programs, 1971-1981
1 37 Advertisements Brochures, 1978-1983
1 38 Clippings, undated, 1968-1983
(4 folders)
1 43 Journal, Mother Number Six, 1965
1 42 Miscellaneous Printed Material, 1973, 1977-1981, Undated

Series 4: Photographs, 1940-1983
(Box 1; 6 folders)

Found in this series are eight photograph portraits of Alice Neel, including one of her in her studio in 1983, and photographs of exhibition openings at the Maxwell Gallery and the Graham Gallery. Photographs of these openings include her colleagues John Koch and Raphael Soyer. Photograph stills for the movie "Pull My Daisy" depict Neel and others. Also found are photographs of Neel's artwork and slides of an exhibtion installation at Akron Art Institute.

Box Folder
1 44 Photographs of Neel, 1940-1983
1 45 Photographs of Studio and Gallery Openings, 1968
1 46 Stills from Motion Picture Film with Neel, circa 1960
1 47 Photographs of Works of Art, circa 1981
(2 folders)
1 49 Slides of Installation at Akron Art Institute, 1979