Alex Katz (b. 1927) is an American figure painter reknowned for his portraits and landscapes. Katz was raised by Russian émigré parents in New York and in 1946, Katz entered The Cooper Union Art School in Manhattan. Upon graduating in 1949, Katz was awarded a scholarship for summer study at the Skowhegan School for Painting and Sculpture in Maine, where he was inspired by painting plein air.
Katz’s first one-person show was held in 1954 at the Roko Gallery in New York. He entered the circle of the second generation New York School painters among artists such as Fairfield Porter and Larry Rivers. In the late 1950s, he became increasingly interested in portraiture and painted his friends and, in particular, his wife and muse, Ada. Katz began using monochrome backgrounds and simplified, flattened forms, which would become a defining characteristic of his style, often earning him associations with Pop Art and separating him from gestural figure painters and the New Perceptual Realism. In 1965, he also embarked on a prolific career in printmaking. At the beginning of the new millennium, Katz also began painting flowers in profusion, covering canvases in blossoms similar to those he had first explored in the late 1960s, when he painted large close-ups of flowers in solitude or in small clusters.
Katz has had more than 200 solo exhibitions and nearly 500 group exhibitions around the world. Throughout his career, Katz has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for Painting in 1972 and The Queens Museum of Art Award for Lifetime Achievement in 1987. Katz was inducted by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1988. His work is in many collections worldwide, including The Art Institute of Chicago; The Brooklyn Museum; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.; National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Tate Gallery, London, England; and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain.