Alex Katz

(b. 1927)

About The Artist


The New York-based painter, printmaker, and sculptor Alex Katz is famed for his iconic and defiantly flat portraits. His instantly recognizable aesthetic embodies paradoxes fit for the artistic climate of the time during which he came to artistic maturity. Katz graduated from New York's Cooper Union in 1949; for the following two summers he attended the plein air painting program at the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in Maine.

A figurative painter by inclination and temperament, Katz was influenced early on by movies and television. At the cusp of Abstract Expressionism and Pop art, he fought against the prevailing gestural approach. The style he emerged with in the late 1950s and early 1960s imbues his subjects with a kind of dispassionate familiarity that anticipates the imminently burgeoning Pop movement.

The seductive sangfroid in Katz's works stems from an aura of paradox: they are warm and detached, representational as well as reductive. His large-scale depictions are of the people and places he knows intimately—his friends and loved ones and, in more than 200 iterations, his wife and muse, Ada—yet Katz renders these subjects with all the detachment of spare lines and forms. Like the colors that compose them, the atmosphere these works generate is remarkably bright and muted at once.

Ratcliff, Carter, and Iwona Blazwick. Alex Katz. Rev. Ed. London: Phaidon, 2014. Print. Weinberg, Adam, Dana Self, and Shamim M. Momin. Alex Katz: Small Paintings. Place: Kansas City: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, 2001. Print.