ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
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This lot has been imported from outside of the UK … Read more
ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)

Bathing Cap (Suzette)

ALEX KATZ (B. 1927)
Bathing Cap (Suzette)
oil on linen
40 x 50in. (101.5 x 127cm.)
Painted in 2010
Galería Javier López & Fer Francés, Madrid.
Private Collection, Europe.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
Madrid, Galería Javier López, Alex Katz: Once in a lifetime, 2010-2011.
Special notice
This lot has been imported from outside of the UK for sale and placed under the Temporary Admission regime. Import VAT is payable at 5% on the hammer price. VAT at 20% will be added to the buyer’s premium but will not be shown separately on our invoice.

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Tessa Lord
Tessa Lord Director, Senior Specialist

Lot Essay

Painted in 2010, and held in the same private collection for the past decade, Bathing Cap (Suzette) is an elegant large-scale portrait by Alex Katz. The sitter is Suzette McAvoy: a leading figure in the Maine arts community who most recently served as the executive director and chief curator of the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, Rockland. Close-cropped against a bright orange ground, she gazes quizzically out at the viewer, her expression alive with intelligence. Fine glints of white touch her eyes and her vermillion lipstick; her face is framed by a gleaming, dark blue bathing cap. Katz defines her features in his distinctive wet-on-wet brushwork, shaping a vivid human presence with the most minimal of means. Regal, stripped-back and luminous, the picture is a warm tribute to McAvoy, whom Katz has known since she was curator of the Farnsworth Museum, Rockland, in the 1990s: the artist has had a home in Maine since 1956, and maintains close connections to its museums.

Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Katz studied fine art at Cooper Union, and was immersed in a world that revered Modernism and the Abstract Expressionists. He resisted the conventions of his time, and has struck his own path for the past seven decades. Turning away from abstraction, his paintings of the early 1950s paid homage to Cézanne, Bonnard and Matisse. The latter’s cut-out collages were especially influential for the young painter, shaping the ways in which he positioned his figures as separate to their backdrops. Katz was soon depicting his friends, family and acquaintances on a monumental scale, seeking to make figurative work that would stand up against the most powerful canvases of the New York School. The lakeside environs of his summer studio in Lincolnville, Maine, played a key role in his passion for the visible world: across the years, many of his works feature beach scenes and landscapes flooded with New England light. Katz has long been a benefactor of the local art scene. As well as purchasing artworks for the Farnsworth Museum, he has curated and installed shows at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick and the Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville. Since 1994 he has donated more than nine hundred of his own paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptural cut-outs to the latter institution, which has built a wing permanently devoted to his work.

An enormous sophistication lies behind Katz’s clean surfaces and cool, quotidian themes. His works’ bold chromatic fields and panoramic scale chime with the bravest innovations in Colour Field, Minimalist and Pop painting while fitting into none of these camps; a deep knowledge of the Old Masters and Impressionists, as well as an enduring fascination with Ancient Egyptian sculpture, infuses his figures and faces with timeless grandeur. The dramatic treatment of the present work’s bathing cap—a motif he has returned to since the 1960s—is a case in point. ‘I’ve always been interested in fashion’, he said in 2009, ‘because it’s ephemeral’ (A. Katz, quoted in C. McGuigan, ‘Alex Katz is Cooler than Ever’, Smithsonian Magazine, August 2009). This idea parallels Katz’s attitude to painting: in their stylised, unadorned lucidity, his works arrest and energise the most fleeting moments of everyday life, lending incidental details a vital new significance. Rich in personality, formal concision and graphic power, Bathing Cap (Suzette) is a masterclass in Katz’s style.

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