Alex Katz - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips
  • Uniquely able to transform his figures into timeless icons, Alex Katz presents us here with a zoomed-in portrait of the titular Danielle. Difficult to categorize, Katz’s paintings hover between abstraction and realism, and his overarching aesthetic between Pop and figuration. Creating thousands of portraits throughout his illustrious career spanning more than 50 years, Katz has been the subject of more than 200 exhibitions around the globe, most recently, his seminal retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York which closed earlier this year.

    “The paintings look easy, the way Fred Astaire made dancing look easy and Cole Porter made words and music sound easy, but don’t let’s be fooled, when it comes to the art that conceals art, Katz is right in there with those two great exemplars.” —John Russell

    Katz has consistently relied on his own surroundings and the people close to him as the influences in his painterly practice. He began his career sketching people on New York City’s subways and then was inspired at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine to paint landscapes from direct observation. This intimate relationship to his sitters and settings results in an astute attention to seemingly mundane elements. In the present work, Danielle 3, Katz chooses not to idealize the sitter, representing a break from the traditions of portraiture, but instead to simplify her features to light, shadow and form. Her features are almost elongated, with a seemingly unrealistic distance between the figures’ twinkly, almond-shaped, brown eyes and soft pink lips, separated by a long, straight nose. Choosing to eliminate Danielle’s hair and neck, Katz places the viewer face to face with the intimate details of the composition. Katz started utilizing zoomed-in and cropped compositions in 2010. In isolating a figure’s features, the portrait could represent anyone. Only the title of the work informs the viewer who the portrait is meant to depict. This sense of universality is seen throughout his works, and is what makes them so nostalgic and relatable.


    Alex Katz in his studio, 2022. Image: © Alec Soth / Magnum Photos

    Since 2015, Katz has adopted a technological approach to his observations – taking iPhone photos of his subjects and using those to make studies or large scale, Renaissance-esque cartoons that he then transfers to linen. Utilizing a distinctive economy of line and a minimal color palette, the present work reflects a diligent adherence to his process of portrait making. Coming of age as Pop began to replace Abstract Expressionism as the leading art movement in New York, Katz consistently opted for flat surfaces and intentional brushstrokes over the gestural marks of his contemporaries. Today, at 95 years old, Katz is still creating groundbreaking paintings while never straying from his tried and true, unique style.

    • Provenance

      Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, London, Paris and Salzburg
      Acquired from the above by the present owner


Danielle 3

oil on linen
48 x 36 in. (121.9 x 91.4 cm)
Painted in 2020.

Full Cataloguing

$300,000 - 500,000 

Sold for $304,800

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023