Famous for his large-scale canvases of pared-back figures, landscapes and flowers, Alex Katz is one of the most celebrated and widely-exhibited artists working today. Rising to prominence between the reigns of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, Katz started to exhibit his work in New York in 1951, beginning a seven-decade-long practice that would come to span paintings, drawings, prints and freestanding sculptural ‘cutouts’.
Inspired by films, billboard ads, music and poetry, Katz’s works are defined by composed lines and flat, stylised planes of colour. Primarily working from life, Katz often depicts his close circle of family and friends, his wife Ada Del Moro appearing in innumerable portraits since their marriage in 1958.
In 1960, Katz collaborated with choreographer and dancer Paul Taylor, creating sets and costumes for his dance performances. This partnership was key in sparking the artist’s interest in depicting motion, which he would go on to explore in great detail in his subsequent depictions of dancers.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1927, Katz studied painting under Morris Kantor at the Cooper Union between 1946 and 1949, before enrolling at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine. There, Katz was introduced to the process of painting en plein air and from life, techniques which came to inform his mature practice.
From an early stage, he sought to make figurative work that would stand up against the most monumental canvases of the New York School. ‘Those Klines and de Koonings,’ he recalls, ‘had so much big energy; I wanted to make something that knocked them off the wall.’
Splitting his time between New York and his coastal farmhouse in Lincolnshire, Maine, which he visits each summer, Katz continues to document the places and faces around him today. Straddling abstraction and figuration, his pristine canvases capture fleeting moments in time, whether this be a glance between the sitters of his portraits or a quick flash of light between the trees in his landscapes.
The subject of over 200 solo shows and 500 group exhibitions since 1951, Katz has been featured in major retrospectives throughout his lifetime, and his work is in the permanent collections of almost 100 international institutions.