Ellsworth Kelly: Planes and Color

President Obama presented the 2012 National Medal of Arts to Ellsworth Kelly.
The New York Times

Ellsworth Kelly had his first solo exhibit at the Galerie Arnaud, Paris, in 1951. He’s considered an iconic innovator in American art, but it wasn’t until 1957, when the Whitney Museum of American Art bought his Atlantic painting, that he began to get the recognition that he deserved.


Kelly liked to recount a story about his first piece of work, using color on a flat plane.

“When I was three years old we lived in Pittsburgh.” he said, “The staircase from the upper floor came down right in front of the front door. In those days, in the middle 1920s…it was very different. We never locked the front door and the milkman, who brought milk and butter and stuff…cheese, I guess…opened the door and put it right on the mat in front of the door.’

‘I remember coming down the stairs, seeing this yellow piece of butter…a pound of butter…I went to it and stepped on it…I stepped on it so it was all flat because, you know, I don’t like bulk, thickness, three dimensions. My paintings have always been planar. And so, my mother came out and said, “Look what you’ve done. You’ve made art.”

What Kelly continued to do, as he matured as an artist, was to use the shapes he encountered each day and replicate them in his paintings and allow the viewer to have an experience with each individual work. “In a sense,” he said, “what I’ve tried to capture is the reality of flux, to keep art an open, incomplete situation, to get at the rapture of seeing.”

Ellsworth Kelly
Oil on canvas, two parts
80 1/8 x 115 5/16 inches
Whitney Museum of American Art

Atlantic is a portrayal of the shadows that were cast across the pages of a book that Kelly was reading while riding on a bus. The shadows are rendered in white, the pages black. The two-paneled work is more than nine feet wide. After this immense painting in black and white, Kelly began to introduce color back into his painting.


Available at Surovek Gallery:
Ellsworth Kelly
Colored Paper Image XVl, 1976
Pressed paper pulp in colors
32.5 x 31 inches
Edition: 23/24
Signed lower right, numbered lower left

“I don’t understand exactly how I choose color.” he said, “I’ve done very few pink paintings or light blue. But I do like gray very much. I’ve done a series of gray paintings. When I mix the color, you know, you mix it. You don’t know how much you put into it…some people probably weigh it…. But anyway, they do it like a recipe. I never paint the same color. I can’t.”

He used color in his paintings, sculptures, mosaics and stained glass. Kelly was able to broaden his color range through the use of color in paper pulp.

Colored Paper Image XVl, for sale at Surovek, combines Kelly’s masterful use of color with his love of the flat plane.

Ellsworth Kelly at Surovek

Please contact us for more information about Colored Paper Image XVl or any of the other fine works for sale in our gallery.

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2017-09-15T17:01:13-04:00 September 14th, 2017|

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