Lida Moser, Alice Neel, 1962, oil on canvas, 34 x 23 in., © The Estate of Alice Neel, Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London
Neel probably met photographer Lida Moser when the two women were active in politically progressive circles during the Great Depression. In this portrait, which is one of four Neel painted of her friend, Moser leans on one hand; the other assumes a cupping gesture, as though holding a camera, the indispensable tool of her own creativity. Neel painted a number of canvases showing accomplished and professional women who, like Moser and Neel herself, challenged women’s traditional roles in the decades before the feminist movement.
Reclining Figure, David Smith, 1935, iron, 10 3/4 x 32 1/4 x 7 3/4 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Promised gift of Samuel G. Rose and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
In 1934, David Smith set up a studio in an industrial workshop and used skills he learned as a welder in an automobile factory to join found objects. He was the first American to use the technique, which had been pioneered by Picasso and Julio González the previous decade. Reclining Figure is made of cast off tools and metal sheet. Smith used piston shafts for arms and forceps for feet. A toothed bar became a spine. Although the metallic body contradicts the idea of soft feminine flesh, Smith applied a rust-colored coating to give the surface an unexpected warmth.