Lot 11
  • 11

John Koch

200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • John Koch
  • The Accident No. 2
  • signed Koch and dated '68 (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 24 3/4 by 29 3/4 inches
  • (62.9 by 75.6 cm)


Kraushaar Galleries, New York
Sold: Christie's, New York, May 26, 1993, lot 229
Louis Stern Fine Arts, Los Angeles, California 
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1995


Youngstown, Ohio, Butler Institute of American Art, 34th Annual Mid-Year Show, June-September 1969
New York, The Century Association, March 1972
Clinton, New York, Hamilton College, Root Art Center, Contemporary Artists—Early and Late Paintings, April-May 1973
Lincoln, Massachusetts, DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Candid Painting—American Genre 1950-1975, October-December 1975
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art Downtown, Federal Reserve Plaza, Nothing but Nudes, January-March 1977
New York, American Academy and Institution of Arts and Letters, Memorial Exhibition: William Gropper, John Koch, Abraham Rattner, November-December 1978
Las Vegas, Nevada, The Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art, The Private Collection of Steve Martin, April-September 2001


Edward Bryant, Models and Moments: Paintings and Drawings by John Koch, Hamilton, New York, 1977, p. 6, illustrated no. 31, p. 29


The canvas is unlined. There is minor frame abrasion at edges. Under UV: the work retains an uneven varnish; there are a few dots of possible inpainting in the upper right quadrant.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Eric Fischl for preparing the following essay.  One mark of a good artist is the ability to reinvigorate the content of our cultural narratives. When Caravaggio painted the Virgin Mary with dirty, bare feet, that seemingly simple gesture came to be seen as the gateway to Humanism and a dramatic and irreversible shift away from orthodox interpretations of Christian narratives.

I am not elevating John Koch to the genius of Caravaggio, but I use the reference to illustrate how a seemingly small shift in convention results in a big impact.

Koch worked within a genre of American realism that includes Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper as its luminaries. This particular kind of realism sought to find the epic and the archetype among the plain spoken and quotidian. In his painting, The Accident No. 2 - one of Koch’s most surprising works - he takes on the genre of the artist and his model and manages to subvert it for unanticipated effect.

Here is the picture: We are looking into the artist’s studio, an intimate space the size of a bedroom. He establishes a sullen interiority by bathing the room in an almost crepuscular light, contrasting it with the midday sun-filled light glinting through the windows. The props in the room are a bed with tousled sheets, a rumpled, thrown off red silk robe, a pair of boudoir mules casually kicked off, a hand-mirror propped on the rim of a waste basket (both shoes and mirror a nod to Balthus), a curtain pulled back (nod to Vermeer’s The Art of Painting) and the painter’s station: easel, canvas, palette.

The artist and the model is a well-defined genre. It explores intimacy, beauty, desire, mystery, otherness and love.  It is also an act of possession. Historically it depicts a moment of deep concentration and privilege on the part of the artist and of detachment on the part of the model, who is often pictured sleeping or daydreaming. It is a space in which only the two exist. They are in their own world. Nothing else matters or is of interest.

This is where John Koch’s painting disrupts the genre. In his room are two figures, artist and model. She is naked, he is clothed. However, rather than being in the traditional artist/model relationship where he observes her, they are both standing at the window. She is pointing to something that he is straining to see.  Whatever is the nature of the accident we will never know, but it has trespassed their intimacy, pulling them into the outside world, and broken the spell of their erotic engagement.