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I live on the ocean, write women's fiction, love to read so much that it's an addiction rather than a hobby (I read an average of a book a day). I live on the wet west coast so it's a good thing that I like to walk in the rain.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Alice Neel, The Soyer Brothers

This week I decided to go to my favorite art website - Mark Harden's Artchive (www.artchive.com) - and do something I never do.

I closed my eyes, ran my cursor up and down the list of artists and opened one completely at random.

I've heard of Alice Neel though I've only seen a few of her paintings and haven't been tempted to write about them. But because I tried this--I'm not sure you can call it a technique--I had to stick with it.

And I'm glad I did. I learned a little bit about her. She's from New York and she painted for many years, exhibiting only rarely. After that first exhibit? She painted and exhibited for another twenty years, and became a huge success.

There's something about this painting - The Soyer Brothers - that fascinates me. It was painted in 1973 and it feels almost intrinsically New York to me. You might see these two men on any street in the city. I imagine that they run a business of some kind together, that they and their wives, their sons (because I think they would only have sons) and their wives, their grandchildren and maybe even great-grandchildren, get together every Sunday for dinner. I imagine that they love their families but their tightest connection is with each other.

None of this might be true, but that's the feeling I get from this portrait. Alice Neel makes me feel as if I know them intimately, as if I see them every day, watch as they walk down the street, as they deal with suppliers and employees, as they go home to their apartments (in the same block as where they grew up) and their wives, often phoning each other during the evening to talk about... What? Baseball, maybe? Or the news they've just seen on CNN?

The intimacy between the two of them shines right out of the oil and canvas.

I'm definitely going to try this again.


1 comment:

Mona Molarsky said...

Hi Kate - I enjoyed your fantasy about the Soyer Brothers. I't wonderful to use your imagination this way when you look at a painting. Now I encourage you to Google the Soyer family to find out who Moses Soyer and Raphael Soyer really were. You may be surprised. - Mona Molarsky