Summer in Maine brought together examples of two of Katz’s most abiding interests, portrait and landscape, and evokes the summer months spent by the artist with family and friends on Penobscot Bay, Maine. Since the 1960s, Katz has developed an innovative style of realism, distinctive for its simplicity of line, shape and colour. His canvases are usually on a large scale and his recurrent subjects are the people and places that he knows best: members of his family and friends, and his surroundings in New York’s SoHo and the natural landscapes of coastal Maine.
Alex Katz found his place in the American art scene towards the end of the 1950s with an aesthetic that reacted against the dominance of Abstract Expressionism and anticipated Pop Art, marrying abstraction and post-war realism in a figurative style that he called "totally American". With the Abstract Expressionists he shared an interest in large-scale formats and their emphasis on the painting’s surface plane. In common with Pop Art, he relished the influence of the new media, the use of flat, bright colour and a preference for scenes of daily life without any need for further meaning but, rather than focusing on graphic elements, he chose to explore light as the essential means of modulating the picture’s surface. His interest in the creative forms of popular culture—cinema, advertising, comics, photography—brought him close to the plastic sensibility of younger artists on the scene.
Since starting as a painter, he has preferred to express himself through the portrait and his figures—especially the women in his paintings—have truly become contemporary icons. Katz has a very personal slant on the genre, since he does not aim for a faithful verisimilitude in portraying physical features nor does he seek to convey the sitter’s hidden psychology—yet they are distinctive, individual and recognisable. Painted from life in a single sitting, despite their dimensions, they communicate a profound intimacy, as the subject looks at the viewer or turns her back on us in a casual manner that implies familiarity and this has come to characterise Katz’s capturing of everyday life in the scenes he creates.