Alice Neel's Timothy Collins, 1971

Alice Neel
Timothy Collins, 1971


Oil on canvas

65 x 42 in


Graham Gallery

Sotheby's $600-800K bought-in 2013-11

Sotheby's catalog note

Born in 1900, Neel spent more than half a century painting expressionistic portraits of singular emotional acuity, but it was only in the 1960s and 1970s that she gained major prominence. Neel's increasing exposure brought her into the world of Andy Warhol, the rising portraitist of public celebrity, whom she met in 1963 and painted in 1970, exposing Warhol's surgical scars and emotional guardedness. Warhol “was in many ways [Neel’s] perfect foil. The tension between their different but contemporaneous approaches to portraiture lends her painting of him an added poignancy and weight.” (Susan Rosenberg, “People as Evidence” in Exh. Cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art (and travelling), Alice Neel, 2000, p. 49)

In early October 1970, Timothy Collins entered the packed Alice Neel opening at Graham Gallery in New York. Running into Andy Warhol and his entourage including Jackie Curtis and Rita Red, he felt the gravitational pull and intensity of each of the hanging portraits. On the gallery wall closest to Andy hung Neel’s portrait of Warhol which instantly transfixed Collins so much so that he commented on the painting to Andy, the first interaction of a friendship that was later to develop and introduced himself to Neel, instantly arranging for her to paint his portrait.

"I made an appointment to go to Alice's apartment on the third floor of 108th Street and Amsterdam Avenue for a sitting. I arrived from Wall Street late with a Dunhill custom made blue suit with a subtle dark stripe and a bold polka dot tie, Gucci shoes ... I went for at least seven sittings. Alice told me on the third sitting that she loved having my custom made Dunhill suit hanging there and would sniff it during my absence. Alice was a sexual creature exuding warmth and energy. Alice quickly became 'My New York Mother.' Alice also had produced more than a portrait of the "Larger than Life Wall Street Warrior," she had produced an image of the prototypical 60's iconic eligible New Yorker and a 60's boy Wall Street wonder." (Timothy Collins)

The present work, Timothy Collins, is the masterful result of this sitting. Having been hugely successful on Wall Street at a young age and having lost significantly in the market in the crash of 1969, Collins describes himself as “in survival mode. The Wall Street Wonder Boy was now just a Warrior.” Neel, the portraitist of essence and emotion, depicts Collins as the larger than life warrior, enlarging the canvas and employing the bold palette, juxtaposing the moneyed accessories of success – the suit, shoes, Lucite chair - with the determined, confident and all the while sensitive disposition of the sitter.

While in Neel’s studio for one of many sittings, Collins was again grabbed by the painting of Warhol. Feeling this was the most important painting she had ever painted and timed in 1971, at the moment female artists were beginning to get recognition, Collins decided to buy the painting and donate it to the Whitney Museum of American Art, of which he was on the Friends Council, in an effort to propel Neel’s career and fame. Following the gift, Neel gained greater recognition as a painter and in acknowledgement of Collins' efforts, Neel gave him of the three studies of Andy (the following lot), the last being the sketch for Andy’s face in the realized painting. For more than forty years, the present painting as well as the following sketches have remained in the collection of Timothy Collins, the man who propelled Neel’s much deserved recognition.

Sotheby's $600-800K bought-in 2013-11

Sotheby's catalog note

Born in 1900, Neel spent more than half a century painting expressionistic portraits of singular emotional… more

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