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In 1938, Neel and her companion José Santiago moved from Greenwich Village to 107th Street, then known as Spanish Harlem because of its Hispanic population. ‘You know what I thought I’d find there?’ she later said. ‘More truth; there was more truth in Spanish Harlem.’ She often painted friends, neighbours and their children in the area. Neel’s interest in representations of masculinity is reflected in this portrait of two self-assured, streetwise boys. Their identical stances suggest both the assertiveness of adults and the vulnerability of children.

August 2004