Alex Katz Portraits

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Sarah Howgate, Sandy Nairne and Barry Schwabsky

Alex Katz is one of the most well-respected and significant portrait artists whose influence is seen across generations. Best known for his larger-than-life portraits of family and friends, this new book presents not only his most recent work but also an interview in which Katz talks candidly about his latest paintings.    

‘I can't think of any contemporary painter who captures and develops and finally communicates to the viewer this sense of the initial shock of meeting a living human expression other than Katz.' Barry Schwabsky

Alex Katz (b.1927) is one of the most prominent artists of his generation. Often described as a ‘painter's painter', his influence is widely felt with many of today's most successful painters from Peter Doig to Elizabeth Peyton acknowledging their debt to his work. Setting his work in the context of the National Portrait Gallery, London creates a new opportunity to consider Katz's work alongside other portrait painters of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Katz's distinctive portraits are informed by his interest in billboards and his familiarity with the process of physical enlargement. His minimal aesthetic, with pristine flat surfaces and economy of line, was developed in the 1950s and was at the time both an anticipation of Pop Art and a reaction to the prevalence of Abstract Expressionism, though he chose to work independently of both movements. The selection of works in this book demonstrates the variety Katz has brought to the portrait genre with dramatic variations in scale and abrupt cinematic cropping of images painted using precise, broad areas of colour. This book presents recent, intimate works of his immediate family including his wife, Ada, son, Vincent and daughter-in-law Vivien in which his bold clarity of vision and emphatic use of colour are revealed to powerful effect.


Sarah Howgate is Contemporary Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, London. She is the author of David Hockney Portraits (2006) and the co-author, with Sandy Nairne, of A Guide to Contemporary Portraits (2009).
Sandy Nairne is Director of the National Portrait Gallery and was formerly Director of Programmes at the Tate.
Barry Schwabsky is an art critic and poet. He writes regularly for The Nation and Art Forum and is the author of several books including Dana Schutz (2010) and Vitamin P: new perspectives in painting (2002)

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Pub. date: 15 May 2010
Price: £25
ISBN: 978185514426 2
Format: 223 x 275mm
Extent: 62 pages
Illustrations: 27 full colour and 4 black and white
Binding: Hardback with stamped cloth cover and jacket Casebound
Category: Contemporary Art / Reference


Vincent, 1997
One Flight Up, 1968
Vivien, 1991
Edwin, 1972
Blue Coat, 1990
Anna, 2009
Anna, 2009
Anna, 2009
Anna, 2009
Sharon and Vivien, 2009
Vivien, 2009
Inka, 2009
Sophie, 2009
Sharon, 2009
Bettina, 2009
Ada, 2009
Marina, 2009
Ulla, 2009
Vivien, 2009
Zofia, 2009
Marina and Bettina, 2009
Oona's Back, 2008
Green Ada, 2009
Three People, 2009
Vivien, 2009
Vincent, 2009
Ada, 2009 





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