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Alex Katz

The Red Smile


On View

Floor 6

Collection Galleries


Alex Katz (1927-)


The Red Smile




Oil on canvas


Overall: 78 7/8 × 115 in. (200.3 × 292.1 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee

Accession number


Object Label

In The Red Smile, Alex Katz painted a profile of his wife Ada’s face, set against a smooth red background. Although the portrait bears Ada’s features, it’s simplified, almost billboard-style rendering seems generic—an effect reinforced by its large scale, nearly 7 x 10 feet. Katz’s broad, unmodulated expanses of color resist a three-dimensional reading, which allies his work with Minimalist art that reduced form to bare essentials. The scale of the work, coupled with the cropping of the image and its smooth painting surface, produces an effect that the artist describes as the “immediate sensation you see before you focus.”

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