Portrait subject Geoffrey Hendricks on sitting for Neel
Here’s Geoffrey Hendricks — he’s the guy in the green sweater:
So I still have the sweater and have Brian’s shirt tucked away somewhere. And there was one marvelous, intense sitting. And she roughed in our faces—she spent a lot of time focusing on faces. And she wanted us back.
And they would come, they’d have their dinner, they’d get to my place at 9 o’clock at night, I did it out in the kitchen with artificial light.
And when we got back there, she had this bowl of bananas and avocado — sitting on the table in front of us with a little chuckle, and thought that would be kind of fun for a queer couple, two gay men, that she was painting.
They promised to pose nude for me too. I’ve never seen a happier couple.
If people were a couple and were together, she really wanted to paint both of them, because she worked with the dynamics between individuals as well as probing into the personality of each person. And it was one of the amazing strengths of her work and her ability to paint.
Alice Neel was known for making painfully honest portraits. Hendricks says a friend warned him about this —
… saying you know, Geoffrey, how could you dare let Alice paint you? … I’d be terrified of what she would probe in and find there within my face. I loved—loved being painted and sitting for her and getting to know her. And, felt in the process of the painting of us, we became closer, stronger friends.
We’re standing at Alice Neel’s painting from 1978, Geoffrey Hendricks and Brian. This dual portrait of a male couple is four feet high and three feet wide. The two men sit at a table looking toward the viewer, one with his arm draped affectionately across the other’s shoulders. The man on the left has curly brown hair and a mustache. His eyes are ringed in dark circles and his red plaid shirt is unbuttoned, revealing black hair on his chest and belly. He rests one elbow on the table, reaching his hand up to touch his chin and slouching comfortably. The second man, on the right, has thinning brown hair, wire-frame glasses, and a five o-clock shadow, and sits up straighter. He wears a blue collared shirt under an olive green sweater. His blue jeans are visible beneath the table. The figures are accentuated by touches of vibrant blue lines on their hands and around their faces. A glass bowl of fruit holding bananas, a bright green avocado, and an orange sits on the table in front of them.
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