© Alex Katz

Reference URL

Penobscot 1999
  • Artist Rooms
This is one of a series of paintings from the late 1990s exploring the sparkling summer light of the Penobscot, Maine coastline. Katz painted these beach scenes 'en plein air' at both sunrise and sunset. Although based in New York, he has been painting the American landscape since the 1950s, often inspired by summers spent in Maine. Katz is well-known for his large paintings, whose bold simplicity and unmodulated colours are now seen as precursors of Pop Art. Small oil paintings such as this one are sketched from life and often intended to be scaled up into larger works, but their economic execution and visible brushstrokes reveal an intimate side to his practice. He says, "A sketch is very direct. It is working empirically, inside of an idea."

Glossary Open

En plein air

A French expression meaning ‘in the open air’. It refers to the practice of painting a complete picture outside as apposed to a creating a preparatory sketch or study. The technique was developed during the mid 1800’s by Constable in Britain, in France by the Barbizon School painters such as Courbet and Corot and later by the Impressionist painters including Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Artists using the technique sought to capture the essence of natural light. In the second half of the nineteenth century the technique spread throughout much of Europe and into America.

Pop Art

An art movement of the 1950s to the 1970s that was primarily based in Britain and the United States. Pop artists are so called because of their use of imagery from popular culture. They also introduced techniques and materials from the commercial world, such as screen-printing, to fine art practice.

En plein air, Pop Art


  • Acc. No. AR00015
  • Medium Oil paint on board
  • Size 22.90 x 30.50 x 0.40 cm (framed: 24.90 x 32.20 x 3.40 cm)
  • Credit ARTIST ROOMS National Galleries of Scotland and Tate. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008