KELLY, Ellsworth (1923-2015)

Acrylic painting on canvas, two joined panels
464.8 x 457.2 cm
Date of entry at UNESCO
Country of origin United States
Commissioned by UNESCO in 1969
© Photo: UNESCO/N. Aftis
Ellsworth Kelly

In this work, abstraction is radical and the figurative completely forgotten. One should not look for anything symbolic in this composition made up of green and blue triangles. What is important to Kelly is to play on basic shapes and colors in order to give weight and presence to the painting while using the least possible detail and technique. The colors are simplified ; for example, there are no visible brushstrokes on the canvas, so as to achieve extreme sobriety. These solid colors are in perfect harmony with the shapes and lines, and here express the artist’s search not for emotion but for an optical illusion created in the eyes of every spectator. Thus, shape and color seem to come out or escape from within the boundaries of the painting, and the oblique line is accentuated by the angled manner in which the painting is hung. The spectator's attention is not only absorbed by Kelly’s painting but also by the surrounding space. It is through this that the artist manages to materialize the paintings surroundings and make it one with the space, hence integrating his works almost naturally into different architectural contexts.

Artist Biography

The American painter Ellsworth Kelly was born on May 31, 1923 in Newburgh, New York. He may be associated with the Minimalist movement that developed during the 1960s. This is expressed by the total abstraction of figuration or the search for emotion from the spectator. Following the Second World War, during which Kelly was drafted to France, he settled in Paris for almost ten years in order to be closer to artists of the Minimalist movement, such as Jean Arp and Alexander Calder, and to take drawing classes. Upon his return to New York in 1954, he undertook various works for architectural spaces and organized several solo exhibitions. Kelly's work is hence installed in numerous architectural universes and is considered as truly "space-revealing."

Ellworth Kelly passed away on 27 December 2015, at the age of 92.