1976: 2781 Broadway at W. 107th Street
"Painting was more than a profession. It was also an obsession. I had to paint."
~ Alice Neel
By Caitlin Hawke
While I can't resist a vintage photo of our streets, there truly is nothing better than an example of our neighborhood put to service as an artist's muse. One of my favorite examples of this is this fabulous painting by one-time neighbor Alice Neel (1900-1984) who moved to Bloomingdale from East Harlem and settled at 300 West 107th Street in 1962.
Her apartment had a front room that faced north -- perfect for painting -- and it was here that she did most of her work from that date forward, according to her website. Indeed, the New York Times says that it was here that her style grew freer and nimbler thanks to the "copious light."
If you go to her website, you'll see a photograph of a chock-a-block corridor in her apartment filled with canvases. At the bottom of this post, I am also embedding the trailer to a very fine documentary on Neel in which you can see her walking that same corridor though if you are receiving this post via email, you'll have to click through to this blog post to view the trailer.
You don't see any of the mid-1970s grit and political tumult in this tableau. In Alice Neel's 1976, New York is small-town quaint with a dose of Hopperian solitude. With a dark shadow looming.
The reason I am bringing any of this up is that (a.) god, don't you love this painting? And (b.) shouldn't we all get together and go see the retrospective of her work, "Alice Neel, Uptown"! It is still on until April 22nd at the David Zwirner Gallery.
In case you missed it, the New York Times wrote about the show here in February and posted a slideshow of her portraits here. Have a look below at her "Still Life" from 1964. You can just glimpse the northern tip of Straus Park through her front window.
In Ms. Neel, there was greatness in our midst.
h/t to neighbor Emily B. who grew up on W. 107th for her knowledge that Alice Neel lived right here among us.