National Portrait Gallery buys Katz's Anna Wintour portrait

  • 9 September 2011

The Gallery has bought American artist Alex Katz's bold portrait of Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of American VOGUE with the help of the Art Fund.

Anna (Anna Wintour), Alex Katz, 2009 © Alex Katz, DACS, London/VAGA, New York 2011

Anna (Anna Wintour), Alex Katz, 2009

The National Portrait Gallery has bought American artist Alex Katz’s bold portrait of Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief of American VOGUE with the help of the Art Fund. The work, which was unveiled at the Gallery in 2010, is the first painted portrait of British-born Wintour and also the first work by influential American artist Katz to enter the Gallery’s Collection.

The portrait

Anna (Anna Wintour) was completed in late 2009, Wintour visited Katz in his New York studio where he worked on studies from life for the final painting. This was the first time that Wintour had sat for a painting but she appears to have enjoyed the occasion thoroughly, ‘I couldn’t think of a nicer way to spend the afternoon. We talked for two hours while he worked, and I was pleased to see that he used a lot of colour, which I adore.’

The decision to paint her without her signature sunglasses came after Katz observed her in the movie The September Issue and noticed she had “lovely eyes”. He says: “Painting Anna was like shooting a fish in a barrel. There was no way I could miss it.” It is this combination of artist and sitter which makes the portrait so arresting suggests Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, ‘Anna Wintour by Alex Katz is a powerful painting – of one great international figure created by another.'

The portrait will be on show from 13 September to coincide with London Fashion Week.

The artist

Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Katz is one of America’s most well-respected and influential senior artists. Katz emerged on the New York art scene during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism and before the birth of Pop art, but he has always worked independently of these movements. He is best known as a painter of people and the subjects of his portraits are the people at the centre of his cultural life.

More about Anna Wintour

Although British born Wintour is best known for being the inspiration behind Meryl Streep's character in The Devil Wears Prada and a for the documentary made about her work at American VOGUE, The September Issue, Wintour has made a significant contribution to the international fashion industry. Before becoming Editor of British VOGUE (1984-87) and Editor in Chief of American VOGUE, she worked as a journalist on magazine titles including Harper’s and Queen and House and Garden. She is credited with boosting the circulation and re-invigorating both titles in the VOGUE franchise.

The acquisition

Anna has been acquired for a net price of £125,000, purchased with help in the form of a £45,000 grant from the Art Fund, the national fundraising charity for works of art. The remainder of the funds came from the Gallery's Portrait Fund.

Dr Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund commented, ‘The addition of Alex Katz’s portrait of Anna Wintour, combining American and British culture, is extremely fitting and we are delighted to have helped buy the painting for visitors to the Gallery to enjoy.’