8 Curious Quotes from Alex Katz to Celebrate his Birthday

The painter turns 88 today.

Artist Alex Katz turns 88 on July 24. His portraits and landscapes quietly defy their two-dimensionality. The artist paints “wet on wet,” so his fluid brushstrokes blend together on the canvas, evoking a lustrous finish.

To mark his birthday, here are some musings from the master of color.

Alex Katz, Anna Wintour, 2009. Oil on canvas, 60 x 84 inches. Courtesy Timothy Taylor Gallery

Alex Katz, Anna Wintour (2009).
Photo courtesy of Timothy Taylor Gallery

1. On painting Anna Wintour’s first portrait:

“She was very nice, very easy, very pleasant. I was told it was her first time being painted, which is kind of amazing.”

Alex Katz, Ada (2009) Courtesy of Phaidon

Alex Katz, Ada (2009).
Photo courtesy of Phaidon.

2. On his Wife and Muse, Ada:

“Ada for me is like Dora Maar to Picasso. But Ada has better shoulders, and could easily be Miss America.”

Alex Katz, Late Summer Flowers (2011). Photo courtesy of Timothy Taylor Gallery.

Alex Katz, Late Summer Flowers (2011).
Photo courtesy of Timothy Taylor Gallery.

3. On Andy Warhol:

“The thing with Warhol is that he was basically a great graphic artist. He’s not a painter. And his work has a different quality. He’s such a terrific graphic artist that he could make things that are more interesting than a lot of paintings, but it’s not the same thing as a painting, for me.”

Alex Katz, The Black Dress (1960). Photo courtesy of The New York Times.

Alex Katz, The Black Dress (1960).
Photo courtesy of tate.org.

4. On Competition:

“We compete for audiences, as artists. I’m competing with the Abstract Expressionist guys. I’ll knock ‘em off the wall. If you put my work next to an aggressive A.E. painting, I’ll eat most of ‘em up. And I want to compete with the kids. I’m there with the kids.”

Alex Katz, Yellow Seagull (2000). Photo courtesy of MdM Mönchsberg.

Alex Katz, Yellow Seagull (2000).
Photo courtesy of MdM Mönchsberg.

5. On Getting Better with Age:

“Most painters, when they get older, they get worse. And the real good ones get better. This is, like, my stab at saying ‘I got better.'”

Alex Katz, Black Hat 2 (2010), oil on canvas. Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest.

Alex Katz, Black Hat 2 (2010).
Photo courtesy of Architectural Digest.

6. On Haters:

“I just love putting it to people who didn’t like me. There are people from 20, 30, 40 years ago that I love meeting on the street and saying hello. I don’t have to say anything, I just have to say hello.”

Alex Katz, East Window (1979). Photo courtesy of Tate.

Alex Katz, East Window (1979).
Photo courtesy of tate.org.

7. On Spontaneous Moments of Inspiration:

“One day I just looked out the window and just decided I was going to paint a window.”

8. On Becoming an Artist:

“I thought to be an artist you had to be a genius or something. It was that 19th century idea…but with hard work, I got to be good.”


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