Alice Neel is best known for her direct and insightful portraits and Dr. John J. Lucca (1974), dates from a decade when the artist created some of her most celebrated paintings. Her portraits follow a similar formula: seated, frontal and set in interiors. Working within these self-imposed limitations, Neel created a surprisingly wide range of works, varying the modes of dress, background and most importantly, the expressive paint quality in each to achieve unique and probing portraits.
The sitter in the present work is Neel's dentist, who was also a noted Professor at Coumbia Presbyterian Hospital for fifty years. Lucca did not agree to Neel's request to be painted nude, but allowed the artist to suggest his clothing. The jaunty pose and quivering outline of the doctor's body is firmly grounded in an array of decorative patterns including his navy blue window-paned checked blazer and geometric tie, as well as the artist's signature striped chair, resulting in a strong grid-like composition and a powerful example of the artist's work.