Ellsworth Kelly bigraphy, stories - Painter, sculptor

Ellsworth Kelly : biography

31 May 1933 -

Ellsworth Kelly (born May 31, 1923) is an American painter, sculptor, and printmaker associated with hard-edge painting, Color Field painting and the minimalist school. His works demonstrate unassuming techniques emphasizing simplicity of form, similar to the work of John McLaughlin and Kenneth Noland. Kelly often employs bright colors. He lives and works in Spencertown, New York.


Kelly attended public school, where art classes stressed materials and sought to develop the "artistic imagination". This curriculum was typical of the broader trend in schooling that had emerged from the Progressive education theories promulgated by the Columbia University Teacher's College, at which the American modernist painter Arthur Wesley Dow had taught. Although his parents were reluctant to support Kelly's art training, a school teacher encouraged him to go further.Museum of Modern Art Biography: http://www.moma.org/collection/details.php?artist_id=3048 As his parents would pay only for technical training, Kelly studied first at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, which he attended from 1941 until he was inducted into the Army on New Year’s Day 1943.

Artworks (selection)

  • Window, Museum of Modern Art, Paris, 1949, oil and wood on canvas, Private Collection
  • Spectrum of Colors Arranged by Chance, 1951–53, oil on wood, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Black Ripe, 1955, oil on canvas, Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson
  • Sculpture for a Large Wall, 1957, anodized aluminum, Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Red Blue Green, 1963, oil on canvas, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
  • Curve IX, 1974, polished aluminum, Private Collection
  • Houston Triptych, 1986, bronze, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
  • Three Panels: Orange, Dark Gray, Green, 1986, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York
  • Red Curves, 1996, oil on canvas, Private Collection
  • High Yellow, 1960, oil on canvas, Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, TX


Kelly's work is in many public collections, including those of the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, and Tate Modern, London. In 1999, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art announced that it had bought 22 works, paintings, wall reliefs and sculptures, by Ellsworth Kelly. They have been valued at more than $20 million.Carol Vogel (May 14, 1999), New York Times. In 2003, the Menil Collection received Kelly's Tablet, 188 framed works on paper, including sketches, working drawings and collages.Carol Vogel (October 17, 2003), New York Times. Notable private collectors include, among others, Eli Broad and Gwyneth Paltrow.


Kelly's first solo exhibition was held at the Galerie Arnaud, Paris, in 1951. His first solo show in New York was held at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1956. In 1957, he showed works in a group exhibition at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles.Suzanne Muchnich (January 2012), Los Angeles Times Magazine. In 1959 he was included in the Museum of Modern Art's ground-breaking exhibition, Sixteen Americans.Jeffrey Kastner (May 4, 2003), New York Times. Kelly was invited to show at the São Paulo Biennial in 1961. His work was later included in the documenta in 1977, 1977, and 1991. A room of his paintings was included in the 2007 Venice Biennale.

Kelly’s first retrospective was held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1973. His work has since been recognized in numerous retrospective exhibitions, including a sculpture exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1982; an exhibition of works on paper and a show of his print works that traveled extensively in the United States and Canada from 1987–88; and a career retrospective in 1996 organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Haus der Kunst in Munich. Since then, solo exhibitions of Kelly’s work have been mounted at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1998), Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge (1999), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1988/2002), Philadelphia Museum of Art (2007), and Museum of Modern Art in New York (2007). Guggenheim Museum.

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