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Ellsworth Kelly view images

Ellsworth Kelly was born May 31, 1923, in Newburgh, New York. From 1941 to 1943 he studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. In 1946, after two years of military service, he spent a year studying at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In 1948 Kelly moved to Paris, France and enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under the G.I. Bill. While studying and living in France, Kelly discovered Romanesque art and architecture, Byzantine art, Surrealism and Neo-Plasticism. These were seminal influences as he began to experiment with automatic drawing and geometric abstraction.

Kelly abstracts the forms in his paintings from observations of his environment such as shadows cast by trees, or spaces between architectural elements. In 1950, after meeting Jean Arp, Kelly began making shaped-wood reliefs and collages, letting chance dictate composition. Shortly thereafter he began composing his paintings on separate panels, allowing them to be combined in different orders, producing different compositions. He also began painting multi-panel works in which each canvas is painted a single color.

Kelly returned to the United States in 1954 and settled in New York City. He continued to develop and expand the vocabulary of painting, exploring issues of form and ground with his flatly painted canvases. In 1958, he also began to make freestanding sculptures. He moved out of Manhattan in 1970, set up a studio in Chatham, and a home in nearby Spencertown, New York.

Kelly’s shaped and cut-out paintings, sculptures and prints have been exhibited across the globe. His first solo show was held in 1951 at the Galerie Arnaud in Paris and he was given his first solo show in New York by the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1956. The first retrospective of his work was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1973. Other notable one man exhibitions include the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (1963), the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1973), the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Pompidou Centre, Paris (1979), the Saint Louis Art Museum (1982), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1982), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1987), and a career retrospective in 1996 organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, which traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Tate Gallery, London; and the Haus der Kunst, Munichthe Tate Gallery, London (1997). Kelly has also executed many public commissions, including a mural for UNESCO in Paris in 1969, sculpture for the city of Barcelona in 1978, and a memorial for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C., in 1993.