1950
April: ‘Relief Cut by Alice Neel’ is published in Masses and Mainstream.
December 26-January 13, 1951: Has her first solo exhibition in six years, showing seventeen paintings at the A.C.A. Gallery. Joseph Solman writes in the brochure:
Alice Neel is primarily a painter of people. Waifs and poets, friends and Puerto Rican neighbors come in to sit for her - and she probes one without sermon or sentimentality. At times, an element of foreboding, akin to that in the work of Munch, creeps into her work; and there are portraits that are almost vivisections. But always her communication is so irresistibly direct that a great intensity infuses her work.
Mike Gold, a prominent left-wing journalist and Neel’s close friend, reviews the show in the Daily Worker (December 27), where he quotes her: ‘There isn’t much good portrait painting being done today, and I think it is because with all this war, commercialism and fascism, human beings have been steadily marked down in value, despised, rejected and degraded.’ The New York Times writes (December 31):
Emotional values predominate in Alice Neel’s paintings of people at the ACA Gallery. Her approach is frankly expressionistic; she uses a great deal of black, accentuating profile lines, and catches figures in strongly individual poses. And its dramatic intensity succeeds because of unmistakable artistic sincerity.
1951
January: Illustrates Phillip Bonosky’s story ‘I Live on the Bowery’ in Masses and Mainstream.
April 23-May 23: Exhibits twenty-four paintings in a solo show at the New Playwrights Theatre, New York. The exhibition, organized by Mike Gold, is a tribute to Neel by fellow artists. Gold states in the brochure for the exhibition: ‘Alice Neel is a pioneer of socialist-realism in American painting. For this reason, the New Playwrights Theatre, dedicated to the same cause, presents her paintings to its audiences, who will know how to understand, appreciate and encourage one of their own.’
1953
March: Neel’s mother comes to live with her in Spanish Harlem.
March 27: Delivers a slide lecture about her work at Jefferson School of Social Science in New York, showing two hundred slides of her paintings. Mike Gold introduces her, and Joseph Solman provides her critical commentary.
Fall: Richard Neel enters High Mowing School in Wilton, New Hampshire, which he attends on a full scholarship until his graduation in 1957. High Mowing is affiliated with the Rudolf Steiner School.
1954
March 1: Neel’s mother dies at the age of eighty-six from complications brought on by a broken hip.
August 30-September 11: Exhibits eighteen paintings in Two One-Man Exhibitions: Capt. Hugh N. Mulzac, Alice Neel, at the A.C.A. Gallery. This is Neel’s last show until 1960.
1955
Fall: Hartley Neel enters High Mowing School, which he will attend on a full scholarship until his graduation in 1959.
October 11 and 17: Neel is interviewed by FBI agents, whose files show that she has been under investigation as early as 1951 owing to her periodic involvement with the Communist party. The files describe her as a ‘romantic Bohemian type Communist.’ According to her sons, Neel asked the agents to sit for portraits. They declined.
1957
Spring: Richard Neel graduates from High Mowing School. In the fall he enters Columbia College, New York, on a full scholarship.
1958
June: ‘Four Drawings by Alice Neel’ is published in Mainstream (formerly Masses and Mainstream).
Brody, who, for many years, has lived on and off with Neel and her two boys, moves out of Neel’s apartment permanently, but will remain a friend until her death.
Neel begins counseling sessions with Dr. Anthony Sterrett.
1959
Appears along with Gregory Corso, Mary Frank, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouak, and Peter Orlovsky in Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie’s Beat file Pull My Daisy, which is funded by Walter Gutman’s G-String Productions.
Spring: Hartley Neel graduates from High Mowing School and in the fall begins Columbia College on a full scholarship.
Neel buys a larger house in Spring Lake, New Jersey.
39.jpg
Neel’s mother c.1953
40.jpg
Neel, Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso on the set of Pull My Daisy, 1959 (courtesy Deborah Bell, New York)
40a.jpg
Neel painting on the lawn of her second house in Spring Lake, N.J. c.1959