(American, January 28, 1900–October 13, 1984) is best known for her compelling portraits of her family members, as well as paintings featuring prominent figures from American political and artistic circles, created at a time when portraiture was considered out of fashion. Born outside of Philadelphia, PA, Neel studied art at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, developing an identity as a socially-conscious female artist in an era when women were expected to spend their lives as homemakers. She worked with the Works Progress Administration during the 1930s while living in New York, painting images of urban life and often depicting left-wing activists among her subjects. Neel moved to the Spanish section of Harlem, in hopes of finding greater truths among the subjects of the poverty-stricken Puerto Rican community. In the 1960s, she moved to the Upper West Side, and began painting portraits of curators, artists, and critics, including Meyer Shapiro, Robert Smithson
(American, 1938–1973), and Andy Warhol
(American, 1928–1987), in addition to activists from the civil rights movement and the women’s movement. Neel was an important role model to other female artists of her era, and she was honored with the International Women’s Year Award, the National Women’s Caucus for Art award, and was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. By the 1970s, Neel finally received critical recognition for her work, and was praised for her ability to portray subjects in candid, contemplative manner, embracing their idiosyncrasies and physical imperfections in monumental portraits, using broad, expressive brushstrokes. In 1984, Neel died in New York, at 84 years of age. Her work has been celebrated in retrospectives at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among other institutions.