At a recent overly-crowded tour by Hilton Als of Alice Neel’s stunning exhibition “Uptown” at David Zwirner, an elderly woman showed me a painting on her phone of a small girl sitting in a large chair wearing a blue and white ruffle dress. The woman proudly whispered: It’s me – painted by Alice! It turned out that the woman’s mother was a neighbour of the artist in Spanish Harlem, and one day invited the little girl to sit for her. Alice Neel was as unmoved about art trends as she was unconcerned with the celebrity status of who sat for her. During her life in Upper Manhattan, Neel painted friends, neighbours, artists, and people of color that often did not receive recognition on or off canvas. It is the deep humanity and empathy with her sitters that separates Neel from other portraitists of her time. For Neel, it was not enough to capture a likeness – she was after the psychology of her sitters and that required a deep-seated humanity and empathy that allowed her to form a bond with her subjects. This is beautifully apparent in Anselmo from 1962. The dancer’s languid, graceful body is wedged into a horizontal space, yet he is completely relaxed. The moody blue color palette underscores the self-assured repose – a feeling of complete fealty and ease with the painter. At David Zwirner through April 22.