Alex Katz - Editions & Works on Paper: Online Auction New York Wednesday, September 6, 2023 | Phillips

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  • “I thought flowers would be a nice foil for the machos, so I did delicate little flowers and hung them with the abstract expressionists.”
    —Alex Katz

    Having first painted en plein air in 1949 at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, Alex Katz returned to his outdoor studies in the 1960s when he began painting flowers during summer residences in Maine. Despite working from direct observation, Katz eschewed the didactive realism of botanical illustration and the pictorial tradition of recording still-life arrangements in vases.


    His floral subjects are depicted in tightly cropped compositions, deftly distilled to their fundamental components. Clever splashes of color indicate lush petals and broad, crisscrossing strokes imply leaves and stems, all overlaid on lively backgrounds of flat color. Blending abstraction and representation, Katz’s studies of blooms are intimate, yet expansive and, as author and critic Calvin Tomkins describes, “make us see the world the way he sees it, clear and up close, with all but the most essential details pared away.”


    Indebted to Japanese woodblock printing, the illustrative qualities of Katz’s flowers are paired with hard-edged definitions and minimal modelling techniques. An essential and subtractive methodology, the artist’s economic execution of form allows him to concentrate on exploring light and motion with key precision. In a 1968 interview, Katz described his flower pictures as an extension of the cocktail party scenes he often painted. He noted that the flowers were “all overlapping volumes”, like the individuals in his groups of figures stacked through the pictorial space. Katz employs a poetic language in his depiction of flowers, with highlighted petals, awkward crops and suspended forms that create volumes and voids, offering an unexpected syncopation of movement across the surface of his prints.


    Katsushika Hokusai, Trumpet Lilies, c. 1833-34. Image: Art Institute of Chicago, Clarence Buckingham Collection, 1925.3370 

    Katz depicts flowers individually, and in small clusters, varying groupings and compositions but continuously returning to the same blooms, including the tulips he has been painting in Maine for the past sixty years.


Purple Tulips 1, from Flowers

Archival pigment print in colors, on Innova Etching Cotton Rag paper, the full sheet.
S. 31 1/2 x 47 in. (80 x 119.4 cm)
Signed and numbered 68/100 in pencil (there were also 20 artist's proofs), published by Lococo Fine Art, St. Louis, Missouri (with their and the artist's copyright inkstamp on the reverse), unframed.

Full Cataloguing

$10,000 - 15,000 

Contact Specialist

212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper: Online Auction

6 - 13 September 2023