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LOT 008

Alex Katz

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1927 -
American

Ada in the Sun
oil on board
signed and dated 1976 and on verso titled on a label
9 x 11 7/8 in, 22.9 x 30.2 cm

CAD

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, Toronto

In 1958, Alex Katz married Ada Del Moro, whom he painted hundreds of times over the ensuing decades. She became instantly recognizable, a celebrated subject as Katz rose to prominence in the 1960s and ’70s, adorning gallery walls and living rooms, staring out at the viewer with her cool, unflappable gaze. The critic and art historian Irving Sandler called her Katz’s own Nefertiti: “She is woman, wife, mother, muse, model, sociable hostess, celebrity, myth, icon, and New York goddess.”[1]

Her face tended to be super-sized, as Katz worked with ever larger canvases beginning in the late 1950s, adapting the scale typically associated with Abstract Expressionism, Hard-edge and Colour Field painting to his own figurative subjects. Inspired by billboards and film stills, these outsized portraits were often accompanied by shifts in internal scale and dramatic cropping, which made the images seem even more enormous than the physical canvas. The viewer is drawn forcibly close to the face, which fills almost the entire surface of the picture plane, like a cinematic close-up. Katz intended these large figurative works to be “aggressive enough to stand up visually against anything else being painted at the time,” a direct challenge to the abstract works that dominated popular taste.[2] The scale and the flatness of his work, and its relationship to advertising, is often considered anticipatory of Pop Art.

Despite presenting his subjects in extreme close-up, Katz eschewed detail, instead working with blocks of colour and simplified shapes to capture a fleeting impression of a moment, in particular the light. Light is so important to Katz that he sometimes specifies the exact time of day in the titles of his works. Sandler notes: “It was as if he asked (as he continues to ask): ‘How much detail does a realist painting need to convey a convincing illusion?’ And he has provided just that amount, an amount sufficient to capture a sitter’s distinctive features, expression, and gesture, to render the texture and weight of a velvet ribbon or denim jacket, and above all, to specify the ambient light.”[3]

Equally important, while Katz painted those closest to him—his friends, his family and especially his wife, Ada—he insisted upon emotional distance in his painting. His goal was representation without sentimentality, focusing instead on outward appearance, technique and style. “When I first began to paint Ada it didn’t work, because I was too involved personally,” he has said. “The same thing happened with my parents. It took me about a year, in the beginning, to get outside the emotional involvement, to the point where I could see what I was looking at. Because that is what I want to paint, not who the person is or what they mean to me, just how they appear.”[4]

Because Katz worked to capture fleeting impressions on such a large scale, he developed a process of executing small, on-the-spot preparatory sketches of his subjects in pencil and oil, working quickly to capture likeness, gesture and the quality of light. The primacy of speed and light is evident in the present oil sketch, Ada in the Sun. With a series of deft strokes of colour, Katz has captured his wife in a pensive mood, gazing into the middle distance daydreaming or deep in thought, as if unaware that we are watching her. Most striking about the work is the warm late-spring or early-summer sunlight illuminating her face and reflecting off her dark hair. The flesh tones of her face have a beautifully translucent quality, a freshness that gives the painting a sense of immediacy. Katz has said in an interview: “In an Impressionist painting, like a Monet, the light is slow. It moves towards you slowly. My light is very quick. It’s perceived immediately.”[5]

Katz’s contemporary realism aims to communicate the optical effect of what the eye sees, rather than a detailed description. Of more naturalistic works, he has said, “All the pieces are right, but then it doesn’t give you the whole jolt. Realistic painting has to do with omission, and what the mind fills in.… If you put everything in, you’re not going to get it. And it goes very quick.”[6]

1. Irving Sandler, Alex Katz: A Retrospective (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998), 89.

2. Quoted in ibid., 38.

3. Ibid., 18.

4. Quoted in Carter Ratcliff, “Survey: The Art of Alex Katz,” in Alex Katz, ed. Carter Ratcliff et al. (London: Phaidon Press, 2005), 94.

5. “Alex Katz in Conversation with Toni Stoos,” in Alex Katz: New York / Maine, ed. Toni Stooss (Salzburg: Museum der Moderne Salzburg, 2013), exhibition catalogue, 168.

6. “Alex Katz in Conversation with Sharon Corwin,” in ibid., 190.

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.

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23 Nov 2023
Canada
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[ translate ]

1927 -
American

Ada in the Sun
oil on board
signed and dated 1976 and on verso titled on a label
9 x 11 7/8 in, 22.9 x 30.2 cm

CAD

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

PROVENANCE
Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, Toronto

In 1958, Alex Katz married Ada Del Moro, whom he painted hundreds of times over the ensuing decades. She became instantly recognizable, a celebrated subject as Katz rose to prominence in the 1960s and ’70s, adorning gallery walls and living rooms, staring out at the viewer with her cool, unflappable gaze. The critic and art historian Irving Sandler called her Katz’s own Nefertiti: “She is woman, wife, mother, muse, model, sociable hostess, celebrity, myth, icon, and New York goddess.”[1]

Her face tended to be super-sized, as Katz worked with ever larger canvases beginning in the late 1950s, adapting the scale typically associated with Abstract Expressionism, Hard-edge and Colour Field painting to his own figurative subjects. Inspired by billboards and film stills, these outsized portraits were often accompanied by shifts in internal scale and dramatic cropping, which made the images seem even more enormous than the physical canvas. The viewer is drawn forcibly close to the face, which fills almost the entire surface of the picture plane, like a cinematic close-up. Katz intended these large figurative works to be “aggressive enough to stand up visually against anything else being painted at the time,” a direct challenge to the abstract works that dominated popular taste.[2] The scale and the flatness of his work, and its relationship to advertising, is often considered anticipatory of Pop Art.

Despite presenting his subjects in extreme close-up, Katz eschewed detail, instead working with blocks of colour and simplified shapes to capture a fleeting impression of a moment, in particular the light. Light is so important to Katz that he sometimes specifies the exact time of day in the titles of his works. Sandler notes: “It was as if he asked (as he continues to ask): ‘How much detail does a realist painting need to convey a convincing illusion?’ And he has provided just that amount, an amount sufficient to capture a sitter’s distinctive features, expression, and gesture, to render the texture and weight of a velvet ribbon or denim jacket, and above all, to specify the ambient light.”[3]

Equally important, while Katz painted those closest to him—his friends, his family and especially his wife, Ada—he insisted upon emotional distance in his painting. His goal was representation without sentimentality, focusing instead on outward appearance, technique and style. “When I first began to paint Ada it didn’t work, because I was too involved personally,” he has said. “The same thing happened with my parents. It took me about a year, in the beginning, to get outside the emotional involvement, to the point where I could see what I was looking at. Because that is what I want to paint, not who the person is or what they mean to me, just how they appear.”[4]

Because Katz worked to capture fleeting impressions on such a large scale, he developed a process of executing small, on-the-spot preparatory sketches of his subjects in pencil and oil, working quickly to capture likeness, gesture and the quality of light. The primacy of speed and light is evident in the present oil sketch, Ada in the Sun. With a series of deft strokes of colour, Katz has captured his wife in a pensive mood, gazing into the middle distance daydreaming or deep in thought, as if unaware that we are watching her. Most striking about the work is the warm late-spring or early-summer sunlight illuminating her face and reflecting off her dark hair. The flesh tones of her face have a beautifully translucent quality, a freshness that gives the painting a sense of immediacy. Katz has said in an interview: “In an Impressionist painting, like a Monet, the light is slow. It moves towards you slowly. My light is very quick. It’s perceived immediately.”[5]

Katz’s contemporary realism aims to communicate the optical effect of what the eye sees, rather than a detailed description. Of more naturalistic works, he has said, “All the pieces are right, but then it doesn’t give you the whole jolt. Realistic painting has to do with omission, and what the mind fills in.… If you put everything in, you’re not going to get it. And it goes very quick.”[6]

1. Irving Sandler, Alex Katz: A Retrospective (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1998), 89.

2. Quoted in ibid., 38.

3. Ibid., 18.

4. Quoted in Carter Ratcliff, “Survey: The Art of Alex Katz,” in Alex Katz, ed. Carter Ratcliff et al. (London: Phaidon Press, 2005), 94.

5. “Alex Katz in Conversation with Toni Stoos,” in Alex Katz: New York / Maine, ed. Toni Stooss (Salzburg: Museum der Moderne Salzburg, 2013), exhibition catalogue, 168.

6. “Alex Katz in Conversation with Sharon Corwin,” in ibid., 190.

Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000 CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

Although great care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information posted, errors and omissions may occur. All bids are subject to our Terms and Conditions of Business. Bidders must ensure they have satisfied themselves with the condition of the Lot prior to bidding. Condition reports are available upon request.

[ translate ]
Sale price
Unlock
Estimate
Unlock
Time, Location
23 Nov 2023
Canada
Auction House
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