Edith Neff was admired for the virtuosity of her technique and the drama of her large, figurative compositions. Born and raised in Philadelphia in a first-generation immigrant family, she explored the city’s social fabric. Most of the people depicted in her work were her family, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances, and she was meticulous in describing everything from the details of their clothing to the features of the natural and built environments in which they lived. Her work shows that life evolves over time; she captures the atmosphere of the changing seasons and the quality of light at particular times of day.
A lifelong resident of Philadelphia, she received her BFA in painting from the Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts). In 1978, she joined the faculty at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), where she taught figure painting and drawing until her death. Neff’s work is in corporate and public collections including the Philadelphia Museum of Art and PAFA. Her many awards included a Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship.