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Alex
Katz

Discover art for sale. Buy and sell prints & editions online by American figurative artist Alex Katz. He is perhaps best known for his large-scale portraits which are viewed as precursors to Pop Art.

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Biography

Alex Katz is known for his large-scale portraits, which combine the bold, bright visuals of developing Pop Art with a sense of real intimacy. His work's bold colours, two-dimensional compositions, and scarce detail make them a precursor to Pop Art; but, throughout his career, Katz has dabbled in a range of mediums and styles, from Impressionist painting to architectural sculpture. His lack of conformity led to a latent peak in popularity. Katz's pioneering and emotive works remain popular today.

Blue Umbrella 1 by Alex Katz

Image © Phillips / Blue Umbrella I © Alex Katz 1972

1. £3.4M for Alex Katz's Blue Umbrella 1

The first of a set of 2 paintings of the same title, Blue Umbrella is one of Katz’s most important works. It depicts his wife Ada, a subject whom he has depicted over 200 times since their marriage, sheltered by the angled umbrella itself, which frames her despondent gaze. The rain, palette and close composition of the work adds to its sense of intimacy, and one cannot help but question Ada’s elusivity and what could she possibly be thinking?

The most expensive Katz painting to date, this work sold for a hammer price of £3,373,000 at Phillips London on the 2nd October 2019. Timeless and mysterious, it captures the essence of Katz’s bold painterly aesthetic and ambiguous yet familiar portrait style.

The Red Band by Alex Katz

Image © Sotheby's / The Red Band © Alex Katz 1978

2. £2.4M for Alex Katz's The Red Band

Once again a portrait of Katz’s wife Ada, The Red Band encapsulates the almost impossible combination of ambiguity and familiarity that has come to define the artist’s work. Bold colours and limited compositional line work show us two profiles of the sitter, not quite reflections, but clearly the same woman, who remains characterised by her distanced, enigmatic expression despite the closely cropped composition here.

Recently sold for £2,439,355 at Sotheby’s New York on October 28th 2020, The Red Band is particularly emblematic of Katz’s unique mode of realism. The ostensible simplicity of his painting draws us in, only to leave us questioning the motives of both painter and sitter. As Donald Kuspit so aptly summarises: “ For all their everydayness, Katz’s figures have a sense of ambient strangeness to them, suggesting the mystery of their inner existence, perhaps even to themselves.”

January 2 by Alex Katz

Image © Sotheby's / January 2 © Alex Katz 1972

3. £1.3M for Alex Katz's January 2

This large scale oil on linen work depicts the face of Katz’s favourite muse - his wife Ada- set against a sharp, graphic portrayal of wintry trees in Central Park. The strange composition of the work makes the figure seem as if she has been inserted in a film reel, or as if the canvas itself has been spliced together - Katz’s sharp, bold line composition taken to the extreme.

Sold for £1,317,162 at Sotheby's New York on 15th November 2019, this painting retains the air of ambiguity so central to Katz’s style, yet also nods to quintessential American iconography, namely the greys of Central Park and New York.

Orange Hat 2 by Alex Katz

Image © Christie's / Orange Hat 2 © Alex Katz 1973

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