Among her many supporters, Alice Neel (1900–1984) is revered as a bohemian and a proto-feminist who, like Louise Bourgeois, achieved fame and distinction late in life after many years spent working in obscurity. It seems to me, then, a poignant irony that the Neel most likely to survive in the art historical imagination is not the chronicler of bohemianism, the Neel who early on painted Joe Gould with three penises and who in her eighties painted herself in the nude, but the painter of “suits,” the Neel who painted the Fuller Brush Man (1965) and Walter Gutman (1965). Indeed, the painting of Neel’s that strikes me most forcefully is Richard in the Era of the Corporation (1979), a shockingly titled portrait of the artist’s son in suit and tie, sitting with legs crossed in a vaguely modernist chair set in front of a mirror. Richard’s face appears twice: once in three-quarter profile, facing the...


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