Lot 18
  • 18


200,000 - 300,000 GBP
418,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Alex Katz
  • Red Cap
  • signed and dated 03 on the overlap
  • oil on canvas
  • 243.8 by 116.8 cm. 96 by 46 in.


Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg Acquired from the above by David Teiger in 2004

Catalogue Note

Alex Katz seeks to capture the essence of his sitters, not necessarily as they appear, but as they seem to him at the moment of painting them. He does not seek to create a narrative, but rather a degree of wonder and intrigue, allowing the enigmatic nature of his subjects to shine through. The people depicted are frequently drawn from Katz’s life: his wife Ada, his son Vincent, fellow artists, poets, dancers, and other friends willing to act as his latest muse. David Teiger and Katz were close friends and used to meet regularly and speak at length, and although no indication is given in the title of the identity of the sitter for the present work, the subject is Teiger’s close friend Kati Lovaas, one of the trustees of the Teiger Foundation, who sat for multiple portraits by the artist, of which two survive. In Lovaas' words, “Originally Alex painted me as a whole, but after getting to know me he felt strongly about doing paintings reflecting the two sides of my personality, the bitch lawyer side and the warm fuzzy side.  David chose the latter”. In the present work, Lovaas' features are stripped to the bare essentials, her direct stare and coy smile contrasting with her oversized jacket and anonymous red baseball cap. The eye is attracted to elements which cling to the surface: the subtle play of light and shadow within the creases of her jacket, the stark contrast between the predominantly primary colours, the lack of depth which makes the composition surreal and improbable, the sense of the subject’s confidence that emanates from the canvas. Monumental and invitingly impersonal, Katz’s realist style of painting reflects his training in commercial art. By increasing the scale of his works, flattening images, eliminating extraneous detail and sharpening contours, he has created a definitive and idiosyncratic style. The artist remarked, “People say painting is real and abstract.  Everything in paint that’s representation is false because it’s not representational, it’s paint.  We speak different languages and have different syntax. The way I paint, realistic is out of abstract painting as opposed to abstract style. So I use a line, a form and a color. So my contention is that my paintings are as realistic as Rembrandt’s… it was realistic painting in its time. It’s no longer a realistic painting. Realism’s a variable. For an artist, this is the highest thing an artist can do – to make something that’s real for his time, where he lives. But people don’t see it as realistic, they see it as abstract. But for me it’s realistic” (Alex Katz in conversation with David Sylvester, March 1997, online).

Rendered in Katz’s iconic flattened style, Red Cap is a superlative example of the artist’s characteristic aesthetic.  The subject is a cool yet mysterious woman whose depiction is characterised by the elimination of high-level surface detail and the subtle play of light and shadow that make for a whimsically surreal composition. Typical of the artist’s oeuvre, the seemingly shallow spatial plane and sharp cropping device paired with the sheer size of the canvas owe much to the crisp manner of commercial art and illustration with further inspiration drawn from film, advertising and fashion. With its grand scale, bold brushwork and carefully figurative renderings, Red Cap sees Katz sublimely capture a moment, if not a second, in time. It is a striking example from Katz’s impressive oeuvre, skillfully capturing his stylised artifice in which the final portrait is recognisable, yet manifests as a distortion of reality.