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Morris Katz

 (1931 - 2010)
Morris Katz was active/lived in New York.  Morris Katz is known for instant art-modernist figurative, portrait-palette knife and toilet paper.

Morris Katz

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Morris Katz
The World’s Fastest Painter
Artsy Editorial
By Abigail Cain
Jan 6th, 2017 9:16 pm

Thirty seconds. That’s just enough time for the average athletic person to run the 200-meter dash.

For Morris Katz, it was enough to finish an entire painting.

On May 9th, 1988, the New York artist set a new world record by painting a 12- by 16-inch canvas of a child in the snow in just half a minute. (It took an additional eight seconds to frame it.) And that wasn’t the only distinction granted to Katz by the Guinness Book of World Records—his name appeared alongside Pablo Picasso’s under the heading for “Most Prolific Painters.” The Spanish master is estimated to have completed some 13,500 paintings in his life; when Katz died in 2010 at age 78, he was credited with 225,000.

Katz’s preposterously productive career began in the small Polish village where he was born in 1932. He started studying under a German painter at age 13, but following World War II he earned a diploma in carpentry instead. In 1949, at the age of 17, he travelled to the United States. It was there that he picked up a paintbrush again, while studying at the Art Students League of New York and showing in the Village. “Soon, I decided I was good enough—compared to others, excellent enough—to make my living as an artist,” he said.

It was during those years that he developed the techniques that would eventually land him in the record books. He tossed out his paintbrushes and replaced them with palette knives and toilet paper, which he used to stipple the paint. “Soon I picked up speed,” Katz said. “If you know which way you’re travelling, then you can run.” He made art in bulk, buying up canvases by the thousands and paint by the gallon. He went through some 10,000 rolls of toilet paper per year; he often wore out palette knives.

Katz branded his method as “instant art.” Charles Salzberg, writing in New York magazine in 1978, urged readers, “Think of him, if you will, as the McDonald’s of the art world”—fast, cheap, and ubiquitous.

He wore a green beret, paint-splattered pants, and a shirt emblazoned with the words “Morris Katz - World’s Most Prolific Artist.” It was a title that came with a price—he worked 18-hour days into his 60s, sometimes from his Greenwich Village studio and other times as a performer at hotels across the Catskills. He would often visit three different hotels in the same day, waking up at 7 a.m. and returning home as late as 1 a.m.

His show was as much about the painting as it was the one-liners: “These are the highlights—you can tell because they’re high up on the painting,” he might say. Audiences gobbled up the jokes and the works, often paying less than $50 for a painting. “I give them a fresh painting like a fresh bagel,” he said.

Photographer David M. Spindel first met Katz on assignment. “They’d call him mashugana—that’s the Yiddish word for a little bit crazy,” he told Artsy. The pair soon became friends, and Spindel ended up attending several of the artist’s hotel shows.

“There were a lot of people from the hotel who were sitting in the room and he set up his easel and his toilet paper and paints and knocked out paintings one after another,” Spindel said. “Just a couple of minutes for each painting, usually. If he was kibitzing with the people in the audience then it took a lot longer. He was always clowning around.”

His act was ready-made for television; he appeared on 60 Minutes, David Letterman, and Oprah, among other programs. And Katz didn’t just make instant art—he taught it as well. In 1987, the New Yorker sent a writer to attend one of his speed-painting classes at the Notre Dame School on West 79th Street. A dozen eager students watched in admiration as he whipped up a mountain landscape, asking for advice on how, exactly, to hold their toilet paper for maximum artistic effect. For those who couldn’t make it to Manhattan for a lesson, he published a book—Paint Good & Fast (1985)—with a title as straightforward as his philosophy on art.

“Life goes faster and faster,” he wrote. “The fine arts must keep pace. This art will one day be viewed as prophetic.”

As Katz saw it, his was the true contemporary art: “fast, democratic and to the point.”

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Morris Katz

Morris Katz of New York, considered the "world's fastest artist," died Friday after reportedly suffering a stroke. He was 78.

Katz had appeared on many local telethons in past years, especially those which were held for the Palmerton Hospital.

The following obituary, Thursday, December 16, 2010, is from Times News Inc., of Pencor Services, Inc (Pennsylvania Entertainment Communications), Palmerton, Pennsylvania:

ARTIST MORRIS KATZ DIES, Reported Tuesday, November 16, 2010:

On the telethons, he would do his paintings usually taking him just minutes which were then auctioned or sold with the proceeds benefiting the hospital.

He appeared at such fundraisers throughout the country, doing paintings and donating them.

In July 1987, he painted for 12 consecutive hours at an event in New York City during which he completed 103 paintings, selling 44 on the spot, with the proceeds donated to the Boy Scouts of America.

Katz is listed twice in the Guiness Book of World Records once for being the fastest artist in the world and second for painting more paintings than any other artist alive or dead. He beat out Picasso in the 1990s for the latter claim.

He is listed in Ripley's Believe It or Not as a human oddity for painting full works of art in less than five minutes.

Morris had a career spanning six decades.

He did a portrait of Pope Paul VI which sold over three million copies in reproduction internationally.

More han 100 museums around the globe own and have exhibited his art, including the Smithsonian which has three of his paintings on display.

Born in Poland, Katz studied painting under Dr. Hans Fokler of the Munich Academy.

He moved to New York with his family in 1949 and launched his unique approach seven years later using only a palette and wads of toilet paper to produce his paintings.

The rolls of bathroom tissue were used to clean the knife or create shadings and shapes.

Katz has appeared on "Sixty Minutes," Oprah Winfrey, David Letterman, Regis Philbin, and "Prime Time Live."

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Morris Katz
Morris Katz (born Moshe Katz on March 5, 1932 in Galicia, Poland, died November 12, 2010 at age 78 in The Bronx, New York) was a Jewish-American painter.  He holds two Guinness World Records as the world's fastest painter and the world's most prolific artist.

He has also been called the "King of Schlock Art" and the "King of Toilet Paper Art" because of a novel means of painting he developed using a palette knife and toilet tissue instead of a paintbrush.

Katz was born in 1932 in Galicia, Poland.  At age 13 he studied under Dr. Hans Fokler of the Munich Academy.  After World War II, he lived for a while in a displaced persons camp, where he earned a diploma in carpentry, and he has since said that toilet paper is his "diploma in art."

He moved to the United States in 1949, when he took a job in carpentry while maintaining a sideline with his art.  While working on his unpublished Dictionary of Color in 1956, he decided to try painting with his palette knife instead of his brushes.  After some time he also began experimenting with the use of rags; when he ran out of rags he turned to toilet tissue.  As of February 2007, over his career he had painted more than 280,000 paintings.

Over his long career, he has established himself as a painter, comedian, and television personality.
Katz describes his method as "Instant Art," as he has completed entire paintings in as little as 30 seconds.

In a 1987 event to benefit the Boy Scouts of America, Katz completed 103 paintings (selling 55 of them on the spot) in 12 hours.  He is listed as a human oddity in Ripley's Believe It Or Not because of his ability to paint full works of art in less than five minutes.


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About  Morris Katz

Born:  1931 - Galicia, Poland
Died:   2010 - The Bronx, New York City
Known for:  instant art-modernist figurative, portrait-palette knife and toilet paper