Alex Katz - Evening & Day Editions London Tuesday, June 14, 2022 | 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 KatzHaving first experienced painting 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 stepped away from a 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 colour indicate lush petals and broad, criss-crossing strokes imply leaves and stems, all overlaid on lively backgrounds of flat colour. 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.”


    Owing a debt 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 edit out the visual noise 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, similar to dance, with highlighted petals, awkward crops and suspended forms creating 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: the dogwoods, goldenrods, tulips and lilies he’s been painting in Maine for the past sixty years.

    • Catalogue Essay

      Including Red Dogwood I; Goldenrod; Purple Tulips I; Purple Tulips II; Red Dogwood II; Azaleas on Yellow; and Peonies

26

Flowers

2021
The complete set of seven archival pigment prints in colours, on Innova Etching Cotton Rag paper, the full sheets.
all S. approx. 119.7 x 86.7 cm (47 1/8 x 34 1/8 in.), three horizontal
All signed and numbered 87/100 in pencil (there were also 20 artist's proofs), published by Lococo Fine Art, St. Louis, Missouri (with their ink stamp on the reverse), all framed.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
£70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for £103,320

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Evening & Day Editions

London Auction 14-15 June 2022