Alex Katz’s striking portraits and expressive landscapes are among the most recognizable images of contemporary art. A quintessential American artist, Katz upholds a fundamentally Pop Art aesthetic, with the iconic subject matter and bold use of color.
Katz was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1927. His first solo show was held at the Roko Gallery in 1954. In the late 1950s, Katz moved towards greater realism in his paintings. He became increasingly interested in portraiture and painted his friends and his wife and muse, Ada. Katz embraced monochrome backgrounds, which would become a defining characteristic of his style, anticipating Pop Art and separating him from gestural figure painters and the New Perceptual Realism. In 1959, he made his first cutout, which would grow into a series of flat “sculptures;” freestanding or relief portraits that exist in actual space.
In the early 1960s, influenced by films, television, and billboard advertising, Katz began painting large-scale paintings, often with dramatically cropped faces. In 1965, he also embarked on a prolific career in printmaking. Katz would go on to produce many editions in lithography, etching, silkscreen, woodcut and linoleum cut. In the late 1980s and 1990s, he focused much of his attention on large landscape paintings, which Katz characterizes as “environmental.” Rather than observing a scene from afar, the viewer feels enveloped by a nearby nature. Katz began each of these canvases with “an idea of the landscape, a conception,” trying to find the image in nature afterward. At the beginning of the new millennium, he also began painting flowers in profusion, covering canvases in blossoms similar to those he had first explored in the late 1960s when Katz painted large close-ups of flowers in solitude or clusters.
Alex Katz’s work has been the subject of more than 200 solo exhibitions and nearly 500 group exhibitions internationally since 1951. He has received numerous accolades throughout his career. Works by Katz can be found in over 100 public collections worldwide. Most notably, those in America include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. In 1968, Katz moved to an artists’ cooperative building in SoHo, where he has lived and worked ever since. He continues to spend his summers in Lincolnville, Maine.