25: Alex Katz, Ada On Green, 2002
Ada on Green, 2002. Oil on canvas. 183 x 244 cm (72 x 96 1/8 in). Signed and dated ‘Katz 02’ on the overlap.
PROVENANCE Galleria D’Arte Contemporanea Emilio Mazzoli, Modena, Italy Private Collection, Europe
EXHIBITIED Modena, Galleria D’Arte Contemporanea Emilio Mazzoli, Alex Katz, January–February 2003
LITERATURE Alex Katz, exh. cat., Galleria D’Arte Contemporanea Emilio Mazzoli, Modena, 2002
Ada on Green, painted in 2002 by Alex Katz, is a captivating example of the artist’s renowned series of portraits of his wife. His muse for over 50 years now, the beautiful Ada was memorably described by art historian Irving Sandler in 1998 as “woman, wife, mother, muse, model, sociable hostess, myth, icon, and New York goddess”. The artist’s continuing fascination with his “perfect model” is evident when he paints Ada in various guises – as a bathing beauty, a cocktail waitress, a bohemian, and mostoften as a confident, simple woman. In Ada on Green, Katz arranges the composition in a way that resembles a snapshot quickly taken for a family album – and indeed, painting is the preferred method for preserving memories in this family. Dubbed by her husband an American Dora Maar (Picasso’s famous model and mistress), Ada is a picture of serenity and loveliness gazing back at the viewer with her expressive, almondshaped eyes. Katz’s paintings fascinate with the ambiguity of their message, as it is difficult to determine how much they reveal and simultaneously conceal about their subjects. They are deeply personal but at the same time indifferent, often giving little clue the inner person behind the face. Painted against a bright green background, Ada’s orange face is here illuminated by the sharp contrast of colour. The artist has stated that French painter Pierre Bonnard, who bridged impressionism and abstraction with his densely-patterned figurative canvases, is among his important influences, as they share a fascination with light and colour. And although starting out in the trenchantly non-figurative era of Abstract Expressionism, Katz established a practice of large scale representational painting early on in his career. By being consistent in this approach, he has achieved a substantial and enduring artistic reputation that, throughout the decades, has withstood many changes in art world trends. In 2006, the pivotal place of the artist’s wife in his work was cemented when Ada became the subject of the retrospective ‘Alex Katz Paints Ada’ at the Jewish Museum in New York. In a 2011 interview, Katz confirmed this infatuation with his partner: “Ada is pretty spectacular. She said once, two more inches and she could have nailed Miss America, and she wasn’t kidding, ’cause she’s the same measurements as Miss America and her face is as good, everything is perfect” (interview with Melissa Unger and Gina Kehayoff for Artnet, 2011).