Ellsworth Kelly


Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015) Ellsworth Kelly was born in Newburgh, New York in 1923. He attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn from 1941 to 1943. From 1943 to 1945 he served in the military as a member of the Ghost Army. Here his exposure to military camouflage began his basic art training. After his time in the military, Kelly attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston from 1946 t0 1948. Then in 1949, under the GI Bill, Kelly attended classes at the École des beaux-arts, Paris. In the 1950’s he began to create large panels of wood and canvas which focusing on the juxtaposition of color and shape. He is best known for these bright, often irregularly shaped works which allowed him to explore various art movements while never committing to one. Some of these movements include Minimalism, Hard-edge painting, Color Field, and Pop art. Kelly continued to live and work in Spencertown, New York until his death in 2015. While in Paris in the 1950’s, Kelly found his influence in artists like Picasso and Matisse, as well as the Surrealist method of automatic drawing. His paintings were based heavily on his observation of the space around him, which he then translated into abstracted form and color. In 1954, Kelly moved back to New York City, where he began to create his well-known canvases of solid color. In creating these works, Kelly said that he was trying to emphasize the space between viewer and art, rather than the art itself. Later in the 1960’s, Kelly also began printmaking. The subject of his prints, like his paintings, are abstracted shapes based on his observation of nature. Later in his career, Kelly begin making large-scale outdoor sculptures, including his work Untitled, 1994, which is located in the Pappajohn Sculpture Park in downtown Des Moines. Kelly’s wide body work consistently asks the viewer to analyze the relationships between space and form, color and light. Kelly’s work was the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and won him many honors. Some of his exhibitions include retrospectives at the Museum of Modern Art (1973), the Whitney Museum of American Art (1982), and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1996). In 1974 he was elected to the National Institute (now Academy) of Arts and Letters and received the Painting Prize from Art Institute of Chicago. In addition, he was elected to the French Legion of Honour (1993). He was the recipient of the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for painting (2000) and the National Medal of Arts (2012). In 2015 the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas, accepted a design by Kelly for a freestanding stone building with colored glass windows and other interior features designed by the artist. The structure, called Austin, was constructed posthumously and opened to the public in 2018. Described as a “secular chapel” by Kelly’s partner of 30 years, Jack Shear, the building is the only work of its kind by Kelly.