Ethel V. Ashton, Alice Neel

Ethel V. Ashton: Alice Neel (c. 1920s) Oil on canvas
Alice Neel
c. 1920s
Oil on canvas
Credit Line
Gift of Elaine D. and Bruce M. Ashton
18 1/4 x 13 1/2 in.

Alice Neel (1900 - 1984) was born in Colwyn, PA. A friend of Ethel Ashton and Rhoda Myers Medary, Neel graduated with them from Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design). Neel is best known for her dynamic and distinctive portraits of friends, acquaintances, and people encountered on the street. Just as Ashton's portrait of Neel is in Woodmere's collection, Neel's famous portrait of Ashton is in the collection of the Tate Modern in London. 


Neel lived in Cuba briefly, then from 1927-30 lived in New York with her husband Carlos Enríquez. While in New York, Neel worked for the Works Progress Administration. After their marriage ended, Enríquez moved their daughter Isabella to Cuba and, devasted, Neel went back to Philadelphia to live with Medary and Ashton. The three women were roommates for a short while, then Neel moved back to New York to resume her career there. 


Neel exhibited widely, and is one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century.  In 1974, a major retrospective was organized at the Whitney Museum of American Art. An extensive exploration of her career was organized in an exhibiton at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2001. Neel was a role model for feminists, a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (now the American Academy of Arts and Letters), and the recipient of numerous national awards.

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