1921
Spends the summer with her sister, Lilly, in Pittsburgh, where she works in a bank.
November 1: Enrolls in the fine art program at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design), although she is listed as a student in illustration for a brief period during the 1922-23 school year. She uses her savings to pay the first year’s tuition but receives Senatorial (state-funded) scholarships for the next three years, according to school records. Among her instructors are Paula Balano who teaches drawing and anatomy and designs stained glass; Henry Snell, who teaches landscape painting; and Rae Sloan Bredin, her teacher for life class and portraiture. Harriet Sartain, later described by Neel as ‘a very conventional lady’, is Dean of the school (‘Interview with Alice Neel’ by Karl E. Fortress, September 12 1975, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.).
1923
Receives honorable mention, Francisca Naiade Balano Prize, in her portrait class.
1924
Again wins honorable mention, Francisca Naiade Balano Prize, in her portrait class.
Attends the Chester Springs summer school of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, which offers an outdoor portrait class and landscape drawing and painting classes.
Here she meets the Cuban artist Carlos Enríquez (1900-1957), son of a prominent family in Havana.
July 24: She and Enríquez leave the Chester Springs program. Neel later reports: ‘When they expelled him for doing not much more than taking walks with me in the evening, I left also’ (Patricia Hills, Alice Neel, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1983, p. 17).
October 15: Enríquez, back in Havana, writes in a letter to Neel in Colwyn: ‘How wonderful would it be if you were a lost princess in the woods and of course as the legend always says, I riding a horse will find you crying ... “Weep no more my fair lady,” I’ll say ... for I have a kingdom in my heart for you.’
1925
Neel wins the Kern Dodge Prize for best painting in life class at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.
Spring: Graduates from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women.
June 1: Marries Enríquez in Colwyn, Pennsylvania, but anxieties prevent her from traveling to Havana with him.
Enríquez eventually leaves for Havana, where he takes a job with the Independent Coal Company and participates in his first exhibition, the Salón de Bellas Artes 1925, with Eduardo Abela, Victor Manuel, Marcelo Pogolotti, and Amelia Peláez. This group of young artists, along with Enríquez, will be among the leaders of the Cuban vanguardia movement.
1926
Enríquez returns to Colwyn in February to convince Neel to join him in Cuba. She travels with him to Havana and they stop in Palm Beach and Key West. They meet up with Enríquez’s friend Marcelo Pogolotti in Palm Beach, where they sketch the resort and are photographed for a newsreel, according to an unidentified newspaper article (courtesy Juan Martinez):
Helping to spread the fame of Palm Beach, a trio of artists, Miss Alice Neel of Philadelphia, Don Carlos Enríquez and Marcelo Pogoloti of Havana, Cuba, are daily sketching many of the show places of the famous winter resort.
Señor Enríquez is a staff artist for a Havana magazine while Señor Pogoloti is sketching scenes to be incorporated in a book showing various scenes around the world in a tour he is making.
The trio are clever craftsmen, transferring their thoughts to the sketch pad with fountain pens. Each stroke of the pen must be correct because there is no chance for erasures.
Friday the trio was photographed for a motion picture news reel. Their presence on the Lake Trail drew much attention and a great deal of curiosity.
In Cuba, the couple lives with Enríquez’s parents in their house in El Vedado, later moving into their own apartment on the waterfront and then to a rented house in the neighborhood of La Víbora.
Neel’s parents visit in the later summer, according to the memoirs of Marcelo Pogolotti (Del barro y las voces, Havana, 1982, p. 227):
The hurricane of ’26 has passed into history as one of the most devastating that Havana has suffered. Carlos Enríquez’s in-laws, who had just come the day before from the United States, after hearing the strange and haunting sounds of cement ornaments that fell to the ground, and the snapping of tree branches, asked, ‘Does it always rain this way here?’ (translated from Spanish).
Neel has her first solo exhibition, in Havana, according to her later remarks (dates and location unconfirmed).
December 26: Gives birth to a daughter, Santillana del Mar Enríquez.
1927
March-April: Exhibits with Enríquez in the XII Salón de Bellas Artes, which is reviewed by Martí Casanovas in the Pequena Gaceta (date unknown):
There is an evident parallelism of tendency and an almost simultaneous advance in the work of this extraordinary couple ... Alice Neel and Carlos Enríquez set the tone of the Salon, and we could almost say the Salon has been made for them.
Perhaps, thanks to their contributions, it is saved from a total and thundering condemnation. A revelation of this caliber every year would be enough not to accuse it of being sterile and utterly useless (translated from Spanish).
April: Two paintings by Neel from 1926-27, Retrato (‘Portrait’) and Enríquez, are reproduced in Revista de Avance (April 15), a new publication for which Enríquez becomes a regular illustrator. In the April 30 issue these paintings as well as two of her untitled drawings are illustrated.
May 7-31: Exhibits with Enríquez in Exposicion de Arte Nuevo, a show sponsored by Revista de Avance. Two of Enríquez’s nudes are removed from the exhibition for being ‘too exaggerated.’ (Later can add: repro of Alice’s painting of Carlos and Carlos’ painting of Alice)
May: Neel returns to Colwyn, Pennsylvania, with Santillana.
Fall: Enríquez arrives in Colwyn. The family moves to an apartment on West 81st Street in New York City. Neel finds a job at a Greenwich Village bookstore run by Fanya Foss whom she will paint in a formal portrait, Fanya and in the satirical watercolor The Intellectual.
Meets Nadya Olyanova, a graphologist, who will become one of her closest friends and a frequent subject in her work of the late 1920s and early 1930s. It is possible that she met Nadya on the recommendation of Pogolotti who attended the Art Students League with Olyanova in 1923.
Winter: Neel moves with Enríquez and their daughter to 1725 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx.
December: Santillana dies of diphtheria and is buried on December 9 in the Neel family plot at Arlington cemetery in Pennsylvania.
1928
While pregnant with her second child, Neel works at the National City Bank in New York. Enríquez continues to contribute illustrations to Revista de Avance in Havana.
November 24: Gives birth to Isabella Lillian Enríquez (called Isabetta) in New York City.
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Neel and her sister Lilly c.1921
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Neel and Enríquez at Chester Springs 1924
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Enríquez in Cuba c.1924
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Enríquez, Neel and Marcelo Pogolotti, c.1926
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Neel holding her daughter, Santillana c.1927
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Neel and Fanya Foss c,1927
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Enríquez and Isabetta 1928
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Neel and Isabetta 1928
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Photograph of Neel titled Alice Enríquez 1929