The artwork of the week today is from an American painter of the 20th century, Alice Neel. She is known for her bold and emotional portraits, but I’ve chosen a slightly more subtle and more personal artwork to feature.
Alice Neel and her husband, Cuban artist Carlos Enríquez, had a daughter named Santillana in 1926 who died a year later of diphtheria. It’s a powerful artwork that shows how she viewed where she lived, New York City, after the birth of her first daughter. The washed-out watercolor, the manipulation of the lines, and the vacant, anonymous people give us a glimpse of what she must have been feeling at this time in her life.
If you show this work to your students, don’t tell them the name of the painting until after they’ve had a chance to look at it and think about what is happening for themselves first. Here are some questions to guide the discussion.
- What’s going on in this picture? What do you see that makes you say that?
- What is the artist feeling? How can you tell?
- How did the artist use color, line, value?
- What choices did the artist make to show her meaning?