Alice Neel

Despite tragedy and setbacks, she never stopped painting

Respected by and known only to the cognoscenti, painter Alice Neel was, perhaps, the most famous unknown painter of the 20th century. It was only at the end of her life that she gained the recognition she deserved. See Neel from another perspective: her grandson's 2007 tribute documentary Alice Neel. She was an unrepentant portraitist during the time when abstract expressionism was all the rage. Her first husband abandoned her for Paris. Her daughter died of diphtheria. A lover slashed and burned her paintings. She suffered through a nervous breakdown and two suicide attempts. Throughout it all, she painted, because that's what she did. She also loved to paint people in the nude, and her own self-portrait in 1980 is testament to her sense of humor and sense of realism. London's The Guardian commented on the picture during a posthumous exhibition of her work: "Poised in her chair, brush in one hand, paint rag in the other, she is finally portrait and portraitist, both. And she sits, slightly forward, as if ready for something. Death, perhaps, but not oblivion. As if she knew." Film screens 5 p.m. Sundays, through May 23. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-639-7515 or visit www.mfah.org/films. $6 to $7.
Sundays, 5:30 p.m. Starts: May 9. Continues through May 23, 2010

 
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