Ellsworth Kelly

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Instead of making a picture that was an interpretation of a thing seen, or a picture of invented content, I found an object and ‘presented’ it as itself alone.

Ellsworth Kelly (born May 31, 1923) is an American painter and sculptor associated with Hard-edge painting, Color Field painting and the Minimalist school. His art demonstrates unassuming techniques that emphasize the simplicity of form.


  • My collages are only ideas for things much larger – things to cover walls. In fact all the things that I have done I would like to see much larger. I am not interested in painting as it has been accepted for so long – to hang on walls of houses as pictures. To hell with pictures – they should be the wall – even better – on the outside wall – of large buildings. Or stood up outside as billboards or a kind of modern ‘icon’. We must make our art like the Egyptians, the Chinese & the African and the Island primitives – with their relation to life. It should meet the eye direct.
    • Letter to John Cage, 4 September 1950; as quoted in “Ellsworth Kelly, a Retrospective”, ed. Diane Waldman, Guggenheim museum, New York 1997, p. 11
  • I’m interested in the mass and color, the black and the white, the edges happen because the forms get as quiet as they can be.
    • Early 1960s : "Ellsworth Kelly, a Retrospective", ed. Diane Waldman, Guggenheim Museum, New York 1997, p. 11
  • I felt that everything is beautiful, but that which man tries intentionally to make beautiful; that the work of an ordinary bricklayer is more valid than the artwork of all but a very few artists.
    • 'Notes from 1969', Ellsworth Kelly; as quoted in the exhibition catalogue, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 13 December
  • The form of my painting is the content.
    • "Abstract Art", Anna Moszynska, Thames and Hudson 1990, p. 173

In: "Ellsworth Kelly: Works on Paper," 1987[edit]

Ellsworth Kelly; as quoted in “Ellsworth Kelly: Works on Paper”, ed. Diane Upright, Harry N. Inc., Publishers, New York, in association with the Fort Worth Art Museum, New York, 1987,

  • In 1949, I ceased figurative painting and began works that were object oriented. The drawings from plant life seem to be a bridge to the way of seeing that brought about the paintings in 1949 that are the basis for all my later work. After arriving in Paris in 1948, I realized that figurative painting and also abstract painting (though my knowledge of the latter was very limited) as I had known in the 20th century no longer interested me as a solution to my own problems. I wanted to give up easel painting which I felt was too personal.
    • p. 9 : Notes from 1969
  • All the art since the Renaissance seemed too men-oriented. I liked (the) object quality. An Egyptian pyramid, a Sung vase, the Romanesque church appealed to me. The forms found in the vaulting of a cathedral or even a splatter of tar on the road seemed more valid and instructive and a more voluptuous experience than either geometric or action painting.
    • p. 9 : Notes from 1969
  • Instead of making a picture that was an interpretation of a thing seen, or a picture of invented content, I found an object and ‘presented’ it as itself alone. My first object was “Window, Museum of Modern Art, Paris’, done in 1949. After constructed ‘Window’ with two canvases and a wood frame I realized that from then on painting as I had known it was finished for me. The new works were to be objects, unsigned, anonymous.
    • p. 9 : Notes from 1969
  • Looking through an aperture (a door or a window) is a way that I have been able to isolate or fragment a single form. My first memory of focusing through an aperture occurred when I was around twelve years old. One evening, passing the lighted window of a house. I was fascinated by red, blue and black shapes inside a room. But when I went up and looked in, I saw a red coach, a blue drape and a black table. The shapes had disappeared. I had to retreat to see them again.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia has an article about:
  • VernissageTV Interview with Ellsworth Kelly at the Art 39 Basel Fair.