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The Devil Wears Yellow: Anna Wintour Immortalized In Art

Illustration for article titled The Devil Wears Yellow: Anna Wintour Immortalized In Art

American artist Alex Katz has unveiled his most recent portrait, which is titled simply "Anna" and will adorn the walls at the National Portrait Gallery in London. But what does the fashion behemoth think about her likeness?


She likes it: "I couldn't think of a nicer way to spend the afternoon," Anna Wintour said graciously. "We talked for two hours while he worked, and I was pleased to see that he used a lot of color, which I adore," reports Vogue UK. Katz says he was inspired to paint Wintour after seeing her in The September Issue, where he noticed her "lovely eyes." He says painting Anna was "like shooting fish in a barrel. There was no way I could miss it."

We're not quite sure what that means in the context of creating art, but Katz certainly hit something with this representation. Even though it captures all the basics of Anna Wintour-101 (bobbed hair, vaguely bemused-but-still-blank expression), the complete and total flatness of the image pushes personality straight out the window. It looks fittingly like a fashion illustration, and has just about as much depth (if not less). But the most telling thing about this piece is right there in the dead-center of the composition. Katz painted Wintour's eyes an icy blue, which almost matches her sweater and necklace and works perfectly with the washed-out, muted blandness of her image. But her eyes, which the 82-year-old painter claims inspired the entire enterprise, aren't pale blue at all. After five minutes of extensive research looking at pictures of the Vogue editor on Getty, I am 99% certain that Anna Wintour has hazel eyes.


Alright, so we know it's not supposed to be a photo-realistic representation of Wintour. And in a sense it does capture the "essence of Anna Wintour on a grand scale," as the director of London's National Portrait Gallery said in a press release. Yet that "essence" is essentially flat, excessively stylized, upstaged by the background, and apparently wearing colored contacts. Not to mention the fact that when looking at Katz's painting, all I can think of is this:

Illustration for article titled The Devil Wears Yellow: Anna Wintour Immortalized In Art

Which is not to say "a child could do that," (admittedly my number one pet peeve when it comes to amateur art critics) but when the first thing a portrait of America's most famous editor brings to mind is painting of a character from a Wes Anderson movie, maybe it's a hint that the cartoonification of the Wintour aesthetic has gone too far.

Anna Wintour Portrait Unveiled [Telegraph]
Anna Wintour Portrait At The National Portrait Gallery [Vogue UK]
Alex Katz Paints First Portrait Of Anna Wintour - On View At National Portrait Gallery In May [NPG Press Release]

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i love you guys, but i feel like this post misses the mark, in that it completely ignores the elements of this painting that are trademark alex katz: the deceptively simple style, with the minimal background and lack of rigid detail. plus, the degree to which the portrait is kind of anonymous — more a mannequin than a depiction of a real person we all recognize. a lot of the things that you're criticizing, then, are intentional, which becomes particularly clear when you look at katz's oeuvre more generally. (i'm attaching his picture of kate moss, for comparison.)

i know you're more interested in wintour than katz, given the thrust of this site is fashion and not so much fine art, but i feel like your analysis of what the artist is doing is pretty facile.