Ellsworth Kelly

Nationality: American

Birth Year: 1923

Place of Birth: Newburgh, NY

Specialities: Modern Art


Ellsworth Kelly (b.1923)

Nationality: American

Date of Birth: May 21, 1923

Place of birth: Newburgh, New York

Occupation: Painter, Sculptor

Movement: Minimalism, Post-Painterly Abstraction, Monochrome Painting; Hard-EdgePainting

Ellsworth Kelly is an American artist most associated with the minimalist and abstract style of Hard-Edge and Color Field painting.

Early Life

The artist was one of three brothers born to Allan Howe Kelly and Florence Bithens Kelly in Newburgh, New York, in 1923. Shortly after his birth, Kelly’s family moved to New Jersey. The Kelly family moved a lot, moving house almost every year in the New Jersey and Hackensack area.While living in the town of Oradell, Kelly’s grandmother initiated him at a young age into bird watching. This helped the artist train his eye and cultivate an appreciation for the natural world and physical beauty. Kelly has a passion for color and form. He drew inspiration from American naturalist artists such as Louis Agassiz Fuertes and John James Audubon who influenced his work throughout his life. During his childhood, Kelly was left by himself a lot, and therefore became somewhat of a loner. In his boyhood,he attended a public school that emphasized artistic imagination. Although not fully supported by his parents,he sustained his interest in art through the encouragement of teachers. As his parents would only fund a technical education Kelly enrolled at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, which he attended till 1941, when he was inducted in the army for military service during the war.

Military Service and Studies Post War

During World War II Kelly served with other artists in a unit called the Ghost Army. These Ghost soldiers used inflatable tanks, trucks, and other basics of maneuvers to mislead the Axis forces and mask the actual direction and placement of Allied forces. During this time he had a lot of exposure to military camouflage and this experience later influenced his art aesthetic. Kelly served with the unit from 1943 till the end of the European phase of the war.

Through the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, Kelly studied for two years at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and went on to study at the ÉcoleNationaleSupérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Although he hardly ever attended class in Paris, he engrossed himself with the rich artistic history of the city. It was in Paris that he met Swiss sculptor-painter Alberto Giacometti and Belgian abstract sculptor-painter Georges Vantongerloo among others and it was here that he refined his art esthetic.

Return to America

Kelly returned to America in 1954. He found it hard to gain a foothold into the art world in his home country after having spent so many years abroad. But he held his first exhibition in New York at the Betty Parson’s Gallery in 1956. Kelly’s work was more European in stylethan the dominant artistic trends in America at the time. In 1970 Kelly moved to Spencertown, where he continues to live till date.

Career in Art

During his time in Paris, Kelly predominantly painted figures. In 1949 he made his first abstract painting which was inspired by how light seemed to disappear when it touched the surface of the water. He painted the “Seine” in 1950. Kelly discovered Monet’s late works in 1952, and this inspireda certain freedom in his own artistic style. He veered towards abstract form and in the 1960s, started working on irregularly shaped canvases. He subsequently transformed the canvas to become a form of art in itself.

His childhood spent in nature always influenced his art and he drew many drawings of flora. His plant studies are mostly contour drawings of leaves, stems and flowers done in smooth strokes of pen or pencil, centered on the page. Kelly produced numerous lithographs such as the“Purple/Red/Gray/Orange” (1988), which may be the largest single sheet lithograph ever made.

Although better known for his painting, Kelly has made many sculptures. He started by looking at the juxtaposition of two simple forms, layered one on top of the other. But only after 1973 did he start making large outdoor sculptures, which tend to have a totemic quality. Some of these piecesmeasure up to 15 feet.

Kelly’s style is inward-oriented and he strives for perfection with subtle yet powerful strokes. He currently lives in Spencertown, New York, in a house that he shares with his partner, the photographer Jack Shear.

Works exhibited at:

• Tate Modern, London

• Centre Pompidou, Paris

• San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco




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 The Concorde Series: Three Prints (A. 195a, 197a and 200a) by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

The Concorde Series: Three Prints (A. 195a, 197a a

Sotheby's, New York

May 1, 2015


 String Bean Leaves I (Haricot Vert I) (Axsom 48) by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

String Bean Leaves I (Haricot Vert I) (Axsom 48)

Sotheby's, New York

May 1, 2015


 Nine Squares (A. 164) by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

Nine Squares (A. 164)

Sotheby's, New York

May 1, 2015


 Wall (A. 177) by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

Wall (A. 177)

Sotheby's, New York

May 1, 2015


 Cyclamen V by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

Cyclamen V

Auctionata, New York

February 21, 2015

$9,000  USD

 Black (Texture) by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

Black (Texture)

Auctionata, New York

February 21, 2015

$3,840  USD

 Concorde I, from The Concorde Series by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

Concorde I, from The Concorde Series

Christie's, New York

February 12, 2015

$4,750  USD

 Concorde IV, from The Concorde Series by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

Concorde IV, from The Concorde Series

Christie's, New York

February 12, 2015

$3,750  USD

 White and Black by Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly

White and Black

Christie's, New York

February 12, 2015

$2,750  USD


Canvases on the Catwalk: Milan Fashion Week Fall 2014

By Michelle Tay | February 24, 2014

The recently concluded Milan Fashion Week was a showcase of art resemblances. Inspiration was drawn from various art movements, including the Bauhaus (Prada and Marni), Abstract...

Adele Buys Middleton Portrait, Philly Gets Post-War Art Gift, and More

By Ashton Cooper,Benjamin Sutton | January 10, 2014

– Adele Buys Middleton Portrait: British songstress Adele has acquired a portrait of Duchess Catherine, aka Kate Middleton, by artist Darren Coffield. "It's my ironic take on celebrity that made...

5 Big-Time Collectors On the One That Got Away

By Eileen Kinsella | November 12, 2013

In late 2005, when mega-collector Eli Broad shelled out $23.8 million for a major David Smith sculpture, “Cubi XXVII” (1965) at a Sotheby’s evening contemporary sale — nearly twice the...

"First Ever" Show of Donald Judd's Stacks Reveals Glamor in Minimalism

By Rozalia Jovanovic | July 29, 2013

Austerity wasn’t minimalist artist Donald Judd’s only calling card. At least not in the opinion of art dealer Robert Mnuchin, who is fond of the specific body of work by Judd known as “stacks”:...

Collectors Gayle and Paul Stoffel's Unique Texas Touch

By Julia Halperin,Art+Auction | June 24, 2013

Two months before my visit this spring, Gayle and Paul Stoffel began stockpiling small-diameter, 25-watt incandescent lamps. So far, they’ve accrued 200. They want to be ready when the bulbs of...

Ellsworth Kelly Collaborates with Calvin Klein's Francisco Costa

By Chloe Wyma | June 20, 2013

 When you think of the marriage of fashion and art, Yves Saint Laurent’s iconic 1965 Mondrian shift dress springs immediately to mind. In fact, abstract painter Ellsworth...

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World Monuments Fund's 2014 Hadrian Gala

By Benjamin Park | October 23, 2014