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Alice Neel
The Spanish Family
private collection
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by Charlie Finch

As Phoebe Hoban reaches the midway point in her exhaustive biography Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty, her style relaxes, her conflicts with Neel recede and the narrative takes on a life of its own. For one thing Hoban has a collaborator, Neel's protector and Platonic lover, Philip Bonosky, a writer whose 30-year journal about Neel's surreal household Hoban quotes from extensively and whose crystal clear prose is a salve to Phoebe's desire to cram every fact into her book.