With the possible exception of Andy Warhol, Alice Neel is the preeminent American portrait painter of the twentieth century. Neel's paintings grew out of the Social Realist concerns of American Art of the 1920s and 1930s, during which time she formed her highly personal brand of figuration, manifested in her seated portraits. From the outset, Alice Neel used family, friends and acquaintances as subjects, a practice she continued until her death in 1984. Her portraits follow a similar formula: seated, frontal and set in interiors. Working within these self-imposed limitations, Neel created a surprisingly wide range of works, varying the modes of dress, background and most importantly, the expressive paint quality in each to achieve unique and probing portraits.
The sitter in the present work is David Brody, Neel's ex-husband Sam Brody's son. The jaunty pose and quivering outline of the boy's body is firmly grounded in an array of colors: his navy blue shirt, the green arm chair, as well as the artist's signature multicolor background, result in a strong composition and a powerful example of the artist's best work.