TPO21 Lecture 4 Art History(Alice Neel)
Professor：All right, so today we are moving on to Alice Neel, N-E-E-L. Um... Alice Neel painted portraits, she was born in Pennsylvania, and she lived from 1900 to 1984. And I guess you might say, she experienced difficulties as an artist. She was in her 70s, before she had her first major solo exhibition. Um, and this is due at least in part to eh... or... because of photography. After photography became regarded as an art form, portrait painting became less prestigious6, less respected as an art form. And, well, art photography kind of took its place, so you can imagine that a portrait artist, would have had a hard time finding acceptance.Eh, but the real reason I want to look at Neel, is that I really find her style ... eh, she had interesting ways of portraying people. She combined some elements of realism. What’s realism, Alison?
Student：It’s like painting something exactly how it is, so an artist would try to make it as accurate, um... and objective as possible. Painting stuff just how it appears on the surface.
Professor：Ok, good. So Neel combined realism with, well, actually, with expressionism. And that is? We, we just covered this.
Student：Um... It’s into emotion, like artists are trying to, well, express themselves through the painting, right?
Professor：Yep. The artist is depicting subjective emotions, showing the inner reality as interpreted by the artist rather than the outward form. So the image itself might be distorted or exaggerated in some way. The expression overrides7 objective representation. Ok, so, Alice Neel combined these two styles ... Yes?
Student：Em... How is that even possible? How can your portray something exactly as it is and at the same time distort it with emotions? I don’t get it.
Professor：All right, good question. It is actually a good lead-in8 to some of the techniques that Neel used, that she employed to bridge that contradiction. In a minute, I’ll show you some of her portraits, and I’ll want you to notice a few things about them.First, Neel’s use of bold color. All right? You’ll see she uses color to convey emtion and feeling, like the subjects’ clothing for instance, it appears brighter than it really is. And the subjects, the people being portrayed, Neel paid special attention to faces. The way she paints the eyes and how the faces are portrayed, these are quite realistic, like the realists’ work. But another thing Neel did was use elongated, sort of stretchy figures.Student But didn’t a lot of expressionist painters do that? So really your are saying that Neel’s techniques were similar to what other artists were doing. What was it that she did, that was like all her own?
Professor：Ok, well, I think it has to do partly with the way she combined these techniques. So, for example, those realistic faces and eyes, but bright, distorted figures. It is a mix. You’ll see that her portraits do reflect reality, the people that were actually sitting there. Realism was important in the sense that she wanted to show people as they really were, much like a photographer would. But Neel wasn’t satisfied with photo-like realism, she went beyond that. And this is where expressionism comes in.She believed in capturing the whole person, not just what was on the surface, that’s where the expressionists’ distortion is important, in an attempt to reveal the subjects’ character or personality. But Neel’s paintings are distinctive for her time in part because they are portraits. Remember I said that photography and art photography had largely taken the place of portraiture, to the extent that some critics had declared the genre of portraiture to be dead. But Neel felt that painting should reflect reality, a real realist’s stance9 you could say. And to her, individuals, people best reflect the reality of their time, of the age that they lived in, so she painted portraits. And if you look at her work, we are talking in the vicinity of10 three thousand paintings. If your looked at them, it is like this gallery of the whole century, an enomous range of subjects: families, women, children, artists, people in poverty--these paintings really span class, age and gender. It is like she transformed the genre, it is not just formal depictions of presidents and ancestors any more.But keep in mind that she was doing this when abstract art dominated the art scene. Representations of people weren’t fashionable in the art world. And it wasn’t until fairly late in the century that critics recognized the power of what she did.
1 What aspect of Alice Neel's work does the class mainly discuss?
A. The ways that her artistic style developed over time
B. The influence of photography on her portraits
C. The style she used to portray her subjects
D. Criticism of her approach to Realism and Expressionism
2 What point does the professor make about photography and portraiture in the twentieth century?
A. Painters began to produce more lifelike portraits in imitation of photography.
B. Photography largely replaced the tradition of portrait painting.
C. Photographers followed the style of portrait painters in creating their work.
D. Both photography and portrait painting were considered inferior art.
3 According to the professor, what two aspects of Neel's work are characteristic of Expressionism? Click on 2 answers.
A. The depiction of unusual object
B. The way the subjects' faces are portrayed
C. The shape of the subjects' bodies
D. The use of color in the paintings
4 According to the professor, why did Neel paint portraits?
A. She felts that it was the best way to represent a time period.
B. She enjoyed the technical challenge of painting portraits.
C. She found that it was too difficult to earn a living painting abstract art.
D. She followed the lead of Expressionist painters who also painted portraits.
5 Why does the professor discuss the variety of people in Neel's portraits?
A. To explain why it took Neel a long time to find her characteristic style
B. To explain why Neel experimented with genres other than portraiture
C. To identify elements of Realism and Expressionism in Neel's paintings
D. To emphasize a distinctive feature of Neel's body of work