Best known for his large scale portraiture and images of youth and beauty, Alex Katz continues experimenting and innovating at age 92. He spends summers in a small home outside Lincolnville on the Maine coast, swimming in a fresh water lake and painting every day. After attending the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture from 1949-50, he acquired the house and has kept it much the same for over 65 years, adding a light-filled studio to accommodate his large-scale work. After attending Cooper Union in New York, Skowhegan opened Katz's eyes to working en plein air, and what Katz calls painting 'what's in front of you,' much like his early idol Henri Matisse. Working outside the mainstream movements of abstraction, Pop Art and conceptual art, Katz developed his own pared down representational style that continues to unfold over his long career.
As Calvin Tomkins points out in a 2018 New Yorker profile of Katz in late career, 'after a lifetime of figurative painting, he is engaged in a strange dance with abstraction.'1 In the 1990s, Katz turned his attention to what he called 'environmental landscapes,' particularly focusing on the play of shadows cast by grass, light on flowers and the rich greens and yellows surrounding his Maine home. Forsythia #2 and Yellow Road belong to these moments of inspiration, when Katz works quickly on small Masonite boards to capture a fleeting image from nature, while on a walk or out his studio window.
Katz may go on to paint a larger canvas exploring these ideas, but the smaller works are treasures in themselves, intimate contemplations on the observed world around him.