ALEX KATZ | Katherine



Katherine, 2014
Oil on board
15 3/4 x 12 in.


Utilizing characteristically wide brushstrokes, large swathes of color and refined compositions, Alex Katz has over the past six decades established himself as a preeminent painter of modern life, whose distinctive portraits and lyrical landscapes bear a flattened surface and consistent economy of line.

As Calvin Tomkins writes in a recent profile of the artist, "Katz had found a way to paint portraits that he described, in a 1961 statement, as 'brand-new & terrific.' Ignoring character and mood, he offered the pure sensation of outward appearance – not who the people were, but how they appeared at a specific moment. 'I can’t think of anything more exciting than the surface of things,' he later told an interviewer."1 Although his models are often those that Katz knows best – most notably his wife Ada, rather than articulate certain intimate characteristics of family or friends that only he might be privy to, Katz opts to present his models as they appear to him at a particular instant (or particular instants, as is the case in his double and multiple portraits). This gives his portraits a masterful sense of immediacy and forthrightness, which "make[s] us see the world the way [Katz] sees it, clear and up close, with all but the most essential details pared away."2
An integral part of his painting practice, Katz uses sketches and smaller oil studies on board to capture the initial essence of whatever has captivated him, and to develop and perfect this essence before translating it to a larger canvas. These studies are "Katz’s way of staying true to the shock of the original perception...His subject is the present tense of seeing, not something recollected in tranquility."3 The studies then offer an intimate window into Katz’s initial impressions and artistic process.

1 Calvin Tomkins, "Alex Katz’s Life in Art," in The New Yorker (August 27, 2018).

2 Ibid.

3 John Yau, "Alex Katz at 90," in Alex Katz: Grass and Trees (Chicago: Richard Gray Gallery, 2018), p. 20-21.

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