For almost fifty years, the American painter Alex Katz has painted a series of portraits of his wife, Ada. These portraits raise fascinating questions, piquing us with how much they reveal and how much they conceal about their subject.
For almost fifty years, the American painter Alex Katz has painted a series of portraits of his wife, Ada. These paintings have attained an iconic status and are unprecedented in their focus on a single figure over so many decades. Katz’s portraits of Ada also raise fascinating questions about his methods and intentions: How much do these paintings reveal and how much do they conceal about their subject? How does the artist convey such vitality on his canvases? And how does Katz’s work fit into the history of portraiture and the art movements of the 1960s and beyond?
This fall, the Jewish Museum will present Alex Katz Paints Ada, an exhibition of 40 paintings dating from 1957 to 2005. As the art historian Irving Sandler wrote in 1998, Ada “is woman, wife, mother, muse, model, sociable hostess, myth, icon, and New York goddess.” The exhibition includes formal portraits, group scenes, and small paintings depicting Ada with husband Alex and son Vincent, and Ada in social and outdoor settings. To view this enthralling body of work is to understand the cycles of daily life and and the continual self-examination and reinvention of the relationship between a great artist and and his lifelong muse.