The world lost one of its greatest artist: Ellsworth Kelly! Kelly (American, 1923–2015) was a painter and sculptor who established his own style amidst the pervasive influence of the Abstract Expressionist and Pop Art movements. Born in New York City, Kelly admired the works of Naturalist John James Audubon (American, 1785–1851) as a child and loved to draw, even though his parents only reluctantly permitted him to study at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.
After serving during World War II for two years as a camouflage artist, Kelly was able to study on the GI Bill at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, in Boston, MA, and then at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, France.
Separated from the American art world while in Europe, Kelly developed his distinctive method of painting, which features canvases painted in a single color, at times in isolation and other times grouped with differently colored canvases. These works echo Kelly’s desire to separate himself from the traditional roles of composition and the artist’s hand. Kelly only returned to the US when he believed that the enthusiasm for Abstract Expressionism had died down enough to allow his work to get some visibility. By the end of the 1950s, he was internationally recognized for his monochromatic canvases, which began to take the shape of non-rectangular forms such as ovals and curves. Kelly also began to create sculptures similar to his paintings, featuring simple two-dimensional forms. In 1970, the artist moved to upstate New York, where he shifted his focus to create large outdoor sculptures concerned more with color than form. Many of his public works are now on display around the world. Kelly died on December 27, 2015.
1923 Born: in Newburgh, NY on May 31st1941
1943 Studied Applied Arts at the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY
1942–1945 Served military duty
1946–1947 Diploma Program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, where he took drawing and painting classes with Carl Zerbe
1948 Ecole des Beux-Arts, Paris, France; travelled to see the Isenheimer Altarpiece in Colmar
1950–1951 Taught at the American School in Paris
1951 Had his first solo show at the Galerie Arnaud in Paris
1956 Had his first solo show in New York at the Betty Parsons Gallery
1958 Began to create freestanding sculptures
1969 Executed a mural for UNESCO
1973 Recipient, The Painting Prize from the Art Institute of Chicago
1978 Executed a sculpture for Barcelona
1986 Executed a bronze sculpture for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TX
1988 Chevalier de lâ€™Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Republic
1993 Executed a memorial for the Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C.
2000 Praemium Imperiale for Painting
2002 Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres by the French Republic