Katz has summered in Maine every year since 1949 when he received his first scholarship to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. There, he returns over and again to familiar subjects such as coastal scenes, fir trees set against sunset skies, and a stream called the “black brook” which runs across his property.
Maine provided Katz a natural setting to begin working en plein air, a tradition of painting in the open air made popular by the Barbizon School in the mid-nineteenth century when oil paint became more readily available in portable tubes. Since then he has maintained the practice which often represents the first stages of later environmental paintings. Working outside, Katz found that the simultaneity of light, color, and movement provided him the opportunity to paint in an almost unconscious way, producing an image in situ immediately in response to his perception of nature.
Several plein air studies included in the exhibition are related to the Black Brook series. These small landscapes feel personal in both their size and their gestural, painterly language and convey the urgency of the artist’s attempts to capture images faster than the eye can see.