Alex Katz likes to paint, and his ambition as an artist seems to consist largely in not letting anything get in the way of his actually doing so, steadily and surely. As Katz expresses it, being an artist is as much an act of will as it is the product of inspiration or abandon. “When I work I don’t ask, ‘Does the world really need another painting?’” Rather, his attitude is, “Well, let’s see what happens . . .”

I arrived at Alex Katz’s studio midmorning on the first Sunday of spring, the only snowy day in Manhattan all year. He greeted me warmly, excited to get to the business of making his painting. When I had approached Katz with the idea of chronicling the birth of one of his canvases, I had no idea that the entire process would unfold in the course of a single day. I had expected to track his painting’s progress over the course of weeks, even months, but it became immediately apparent

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