Alex Katz - New Now London Tuesday, July 13, 2021 | Phillips

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  • 'There’s no past tense, there’s no future tense, there’s only now. And I want to paint the now… that’s what consciousness is.'
    —Alex Katz
    Painted in 1972, Edmund shows the brown hair of the titular subject pushed back underneath a mortar board. The minimalist lines that articulate his facial features are juxtaposed against the flat green planes of the lush grass and trees that comprise the background. The rich cherry red of the robes draped over the figure’s shoulders affirm the captured occasion as a graduation. The portrait exemplifies the distinctive visual style developed by American artist Alex Katz across seven decades of artmaking, uniting the artist’s dual interests in portraiture and landscape painting. Closely cropped to the subject’s face and echoing the wide-screen angle of the cinematic gaze, the composition of Edmund reveals the influence of photography, filmmaking and advertising billboards on Katz’s approach to representing the human subject. He captures the young man as he gazes into the middle distance, encouraging the viewer to share in a moment of rich psychological introspection that belies the deceptive simplicity of the artist’s painterly style. The cropped perspective and scale of the painting imbues the work with an immediacy: the ‘now’ that Katz seeks to convey as he captures fleeting moments of human experience.
    'A lot of people want to paint something timeless, but I paint the immediate presence'
    —Alex Katz
    Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Katz burst onto the New York art scene in the 1950s after completing his training at the prestigious Cooper Union Art School in Manhattan and concluding a scholarship at the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in Maine. Inspired by the monumental scale of the work synonymous with Abstract Expressionism but resolutely determined to preserve his own figurative style, the artist established an idiosyncratic painterly vocabulary: ‘Those Klines and de Koonings had so much big energy; I just wanted to make something that knocked them off the wall. Just like that – more muscle, more energy. They set the standard.’i Cultivated through the artist’s employment of minimal lines and vibrant colour, the sense of abstract flatness in his work drew upon the energy and scale of Abstract Expressionism to anticipate, and then transcend, the Pop Art movement. Edmund stands within the artist’s confident investigation of portraiture emergent from these hybrid art historical influences to assert Katz’s position as a vital force at the forefront of artistic production today.


    i Alex Katz, quoted in ‘In Search of the “Big Technique”: Alex Katz on Why Artists Should Stick to a Style in a Changing Art World’, Artspace Magazine, 29 July 2016, online

    • Provenance

      Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1975



signed and dated 'Alex Katz 72' upper right; signed and dated '8-72 Alex Katz' on the overlap
oil on linen
81.8 x 122.2 cm (32 1/4 x 48 1/8 in.)
Painted in 1972.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £189,000

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey
Head of New Now Sale
+44 20 7318 4084

New Now

London Auction 13 July 2021