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Artists’ Birthdays: May the 31st – Ellsworth Kelly (1923)

May 31, 2012

Would you like to know it all? We would! That’s why the theme for our Know It All Section for 2012 is Artists’ Birthdays. We hope that these posts will help to increase our and your knowledge in Art History. Lets get acquainted with more painters, lets recognise their artwork and be inspired by the masterpieces!

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This time everything’s just in a few sentences. As for the rest – let the artist speak for himself.

Ellsworth Kelly (1923 May 31)

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 the simplicity of form found similar to the work of John McLaughlin and Kenneth Noland. Kelly often employs bright colors to enhance his works. He lives and works in Spencertown, New York.

In Short…

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.

Ellsworth Kelly, Apples, 1949 (Watercolor and pencil on paper)

“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

Ellsworth Kelly, Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance II, 1951

“I think that if you can turn off the mind and look only with the eyes, ultimately everything becomes abstract.” Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly, Study for “Cité”: Brushstrokes Cut into Twenty Squares and Arranged by Chance, 1951

“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

Ellsworth Kelly, “Spectrum VI in 13 Parts”

*Hard-edge painting is painting in which abrupt transitions are found between color areas. Color areas are often of one unvarying color. The Hard-edge painting style is related to Geometric abstraction, Op Art, Post-painterly Abstraction, and Color Field painting.

**Colour Field painting is a style of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. It was inspired by European modernism and closely related to Abstract Expressionism, while many of its notable early proponents were among the pioneering Abstract Expressionists. Color Field is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid color spread across or stained into the canvas creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. The movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action in favour of an overall consistency of form and process. In color field painting “color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself.”

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Information for this post found on Wikipedia and The Art Story.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Sally Kelly permalink
    June 4, 2012 10:00 am

    Happy Birthday Ellsworth! I have just looked at your work and am inspired to share another artists work with everyone (she is my sister!) – but her style is clearly influenced by Ellsworth.
    Link to her website –
    Have a look!

    • June 6, 2012 6:16 pm

      Hello, Sally. How are you these days? I hope everything’s going well?

      I had a look at your sister’s website. What can I say? You are two very gifted sisters! Her apples did remind me of Ellsworth’s fruit. (How odd that you share the same sirname with Ellsworth and your sister was influenced by his artwork.)

      Well, I hope Lucy finishes her website soon and that we will be able to see some more of her creations.

      K. xxx

      • Sally Kelly permalink
        June 9, 2012 9:28 am

        Hi Kristina,

        I am great thank you! I could not resist showing Lucy’s work here, as it has a very similar style to Ellsworth.

        I am loving your new photos. Keep up the fantastic work… I will keep checking in,

        Sally xxx

  2. Yigru Zeltil permalink
    August 18, 2012 7:20 pm

    Love Ellsworth Kelly, the most fun minimalist painter in my opinion (that is if you still believe in the word “minimalism). Kenneth Noland is one of my favorites too.

    • Yigru Zeltil permalink
      August 18, 2012 7:30 pm

      P.S. I said “painter”. Dan Flavin is very fun too… by the way, are you aware of Jo Baer and her monochrome paintings? I love Yves Klein’s monochromes the most (partially because of their surprisingly rich texture), but Jo Baer comes with a great sense of subtle humor in the way she arranges the frames of her monochromes or even paint a “frame” on the painting… (I forgot, Sam Francis also has a few superb paintings with most of the canvas blank framed by color fields)

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