Brenda Zlamany
Oil painting portrait of an older man leaning back on a chair

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Portrait #83
Collection of Nat and Georgia Kramer

This is my second portrait of Alex Katz. Because of his many self-portraits, he is a natural poser, and so achieving an original image of him was a challenge. When I first painted Alex, ten years ago, there was a painting of a figure on a red ground in his studio. We discussed the problems of red. I became determined to paint him on that color. I explored several rectangles for this painting. The diagonal pull created by his body is so strong in this composition that I could center his left eye and the large area of pure color to the right would still be activated. Because the painting’s proportions and ground color contain psychological content, architecture and objects are unnecessary. Having Alex pose in my studio was exciting because of his skill as a portraitist and his unique relationship with his image. I could not ignore his comments (which he even demonstrated several times by painting on the image), yet I had to keep my own vision. Having posed for Alex, I am familiar with his working methods. He is direct. I am not. For example, I may arrive at an image indirectly by making the underpainting too orange in anticipation of blue glazes. Many artists whom I paint have also portrayed me and one another. The resulting images document a community.