Alex Katz: Ada

Alex Katz has just finished curating a large exhibit at the Peter Freeman Gallery in New York, called Downtown Painting, which includes his works and those of many other artists whose work he admires. Early illustrations of Moby Dick, that he did while taking an illustration class at Cooper Union, are on display at the Colby College Museum of Art in Maine. This summer his works were shown in Paris, New York and Seoul and a solo exhibit of his work is about to open at the Dallas Museum of Art on September 15th.

Alex Katz standing in front of Ada, 2018

At 92, Katz is still climbing up onto scaffolds to paint enormous landscapes and, of course, portraits of Ada, his muse and wife of sixty-one years.

Ada Katz standing in front of Ada, 2018

Alex Katz met Ada at a the opening of his two-person show at the Tanager Gallery in New York in October 1957. They were married four months later. One of the first paintings that he created of her was Ada in Black Sweater, in 1957.

Alex Katz
Ada in Black Sweater, 1957

Ada Del Moro was born in the Bronx in 1928 to Italian parents from Abruzzi. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a BS in 1950, studied at the University of Maryland and received an MS in biology from New York University in 1955. She was a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Milan where she studied tumor genetics and was working as a research biologist at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York when she met Alex Katz. Ada gave up her research career after their son, Vincent, was born in 1960. Vincent is a poet, translator, and author.

Katz and Ada moved into a loft in Manhattan in 1968, and continue to live there today. The loft is divided into living space and studio space. They spend summers in Maine, where Katz has been living and painting since 1954.

Ada on Katz

In a rare interview, that she gave to the New York Times, Ada said,“I was sitting with my hands in my lap, and this guy that I was interested in was looking at my eyes, my ears, my shoulders. The whole thing was just very sensual. And I didn’t think I could handle it. But then it became just this thing that he did. I was sitting and he was painting, and that was it.”

Alex Katz
The Black Dress, 1960

Katz on Ada

Katz says that Ada is the perfect model. “She’s both a European beauty and an American beauty,” he says. “She’s like Dora Maar, the same kind of face, but then her smile is the American-beauty smile.”

Unlike Dora Maar, who had a tumultuous, nine-year relationship with Picasso and then spent the rest of her life in relative isolation, Katz and Ada have had what appears to be a serene relationship. Katz has created over 250 portraits of Ada.

Alex Katz
Purple Hat (Ada), 2017
Archival pigment inks
46 x 21 inches
Edition: 83/125
Signed: Alex Katz 83/125 (l.l.)
Available at Surovek Gallery

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References:
Barry Schwabsky. Alex Katz’s Downtown Dreams. The Nation. August 16, 2019.
Calvin Tomkins. Alex Katz’s Life in Art. The New Yorker. August 27, 2019.
Leslie Camhi. Painted Lady. The New York Times. August 27, 2006.
http://www.colby.edu/museum/exhibition/alex-katz-moby-dick/.
2019-09-18T08:57:25-04:00

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