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Artists Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly Photo

Ellsworth Kelly

American Painter and Sculptor

Movements and Styles: Minimalism, Hard-edge Painting

Born: May 31, 1923 - Newburgh, New York

Died: December 27, 2015 - Spencertown, New York

Ellsworth Kelly Timeline

Quotes

"When I see a white piece of paper, I feel I've got to draw. And drawing, for me, is the beginning of everything."
Ellsworth Kelly
"Geometry is moribund. I want a lil and joy to art."
Ellsworth Kelly
"I'm constantly investigating nature - nature, meaning everything."
Ellsworth Kelly
"The form of my painting is the content. My work is made of single or multiple panels: rectangle, curved or square. I am less interested in marks on the panels than the "presence" of the panels themselves. In "Red, Yellow, Blue," the square panels present color. It was made to exist forever in the present; it is an idea and can be repeated anytime in the future."
Ellsworth Kelly
"I think that if you can turn off the mind and look only with the eyes, ultimately everything becomes abstract."
Ellsworth Kelly
"I am not interested in painting as it has been accepted for so long-to hang on the walls of houses as pictures. To hell with pictures-they should be the wall."
Ellsworth Kelly

"I have worked to free shape from its ground, and then to work the shape so that it has a definite relationship to the space around it; so that it has a clarity and a measure within itself of its parts (angles, curves, edges and mass); and so that, with color and tonality, the shape finds its own space and always demands its freedom and separateness."

Ellsworth Kelly Signature

Synopsis

Ellsworth Kelly has been a widely influential force in the post-war art world. He first rose to critical acclaim in the 1950s with his bright, multi-paneled and largely monochromatic canvases. Maintaining a persistent focus on the dynamic relationships between shape, form and color, Kelly was one of the first artists to create irregularly shaped canvases. His subsequent layered reliefs, flat sculptures, and line drawings further challenged viewers' conceptions of space. While not adhering to any one artistic movement, Kelly vitally influenced the development of Minimalism, Hard-edge painting, Color Field, and Pop art.

Key Ideas

Kelly intends for viewers to experience his artwork with instinctive, physical responses to the work's structure, color, and surrounding space rather than with contextual or interpretive analysis. He encourages a kind of silent encounter, or bodily participation by the viewer with the artwork, chiefly by presenting bold and contrasting colors free of gestural brushstrokes or recognizable imagery, panels protruding gracefully from the wall, and irregular forms inhabiting space as confidently as the viewer before them.
Real-life observations are the backbone of Kelly's abstraction works, which are replications of the shapes, shadows, and other visual sensations he experiences in the world around him. As did the early-20th-century Dadaists, Kelly delights in the spontaneous, the casual, and the ephemeral means of finding such "readymade" subjects.
The subtle fluctuation between the meditative, decorative and industrial in much of Kelly's work can be traced in part to this design training in art school. In this sense, Kelly continues Henri Matisse's lyrical and decorative ideal of creating an art of visual serenity, even as the painted motif is now reduced to its simplest and sometimes most mysterious configuration. The special camouflage unit of which Kelly was a part during his service in World War II, and the principles of visual scrambling he undertook, has also contributed greatly to Kelly's intense visual motifs.

Biography

Ellsworth Kelly Photo

Childhood

Born in Newburgh, New York in 1923, Ellsworth Kelly was the second of three boys. He grew up in northern New Jersey, where he spent much of his time alone, often watching birds and insects. These observations of nature would later inform his unique way of creating and looking at art. After graduating from high school, he studied technical art and design at the Pratt Institute from 1941-1942. His parents, an insurance company executive and a teacher, were practical and supported his art career only if he pursued this technical training. In 1943, Kelly enlisted in the army and joined the camouflage unit called "the Ghost Army," which had among its members many artists and designers. The unit's task was to misdirect enemy soldiers with inflatable tanks. While in the army, Kelly served in France, England and Germany, including a brief stay in Paris. His visual experiences with camouflage and shadows, as well as his short time in Paris strongly impacted Kelly's aesthetic and future career path.

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Ellsworth Kelly Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Ellsworth Kelly
Interactive chart with Ellsworth Kelly's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Paul CézannePaul Cézanne
Paul KleePaul Klee
Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Constantin Brâncu?iConstantin Brâncu?i
Hans ArpHans Arp

Personal Contacts

Agnes MartinAgnes Martin
James RosenquistJames Rosenquist
Jack YoungermanJack Youngerman

Movements

Romanesque ArtRomanesque Art
Byzantine ArtByzantine Art
SurrealismSurrealism
Neo-PlasticismNeo-Plasticism

Influences on Artist
Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly
Years Worked: 1948 - Current
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Robert IndianaRobert Indiana
Richard SerraRichard Serra
Dan FlavinDan Flavin
Donald JuddDonald Judd

Personal Contacts

Roy LichtensteinRoy Lichtenstein
Agnes MartinAgnes Martin
James RosenquistJames Rosenquist

Movements

Color Field PaintingColor Field Painting
Post-Painterly AbstractionPost-Painterly Abstraction
Hard-edge PaintingHard-edge Painting
Pop ArtPop Art
MinimalismMinimalism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Rachel Gershman
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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