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Black Scarf

1995 Alex Katz Born: New York, New York 1927 oil on canvas 72 x 48 in. (182.9 x 121.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Partial and promised gift of Samuel Rose and Julie Walters © 1995, Alex Katz 2001.38 Not currently on view


Gallery Label

Black Scarf has the scale and impact of a billboard, but nevertheless offers a tender and intimate portrait of Alex Katz's wife, Ada. The image both acknowledges and stylizes the effects of aging on her reserved, fine-boned beauty. A breeze catches a lock of gray hair. Ada looks over her shoulder as though her attention had been distracted by something behind her, while her body turns in the opposite direction, as if moving forward. The image is like a film still that conveys the past, present, and future in one frame, and perhaps Katz was thinking of this convergence of time when he said that this was the "last great portrait" of Ada. Behind it lie the hundreds of images he had made of her since the 1950s as well as the history of their lives together.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Dress - accessory - scarf

Figure female - bust

painting