Ellsworth Kelly
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Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly
Back to Nature

27th November - 20th December

Online Exhibition

The work of the American abstract artist Ellsworth Kelly (1923 – 2015) embodies the avant-garde of post-war abstraction. Along with the work of Mark Rothko and Kenneth Noland, Kelly’s work constitutes the Colour-Field counterpart to gestural abstraction. His work includes painting, sculpture as well as printmaking.

 

Although Kelly explored the fundamentals of pure colour, line and form, the basis of his abstraction always lay in his observations of the natural and built environment. Kelly consistently returned to nature as a source of inspiration throughout his career.  He first began making prints in 1964 and embarked on the Suite of Plant Lithographs in the same year, collaborating with Maeght Editeur in Paris. This project marked the beginning of a corpus that would grow to seventy-two prints that engaged with the subject matter of flora: Leaves (1973-76), Twelve Leaves (1978), Series of Plant and Flower Lithographs (1983-85), Oak Leaves (1992) and several other individual prints and drawings. This body of work shows a range of expression within the elegance and apparent simplicity of contour line drawing.

 

Studying in Paris in 1946-47 allowed Kelly to be immersed within Modernist circles and it was here that he came under the influence of Alexander Calder, Jean Arp and Constantin Brancusi. The simplicity and confidence of the line can be seen to share similarities with Jean Arp and Henri Matisse.

 

The abstraction seen in Kelly’s work remains rooted in the natural world as one can see in the present works which come from Suite of Plant Lithographs. Kelly distills and abstracts the forms in his paintings from observations of the real world. In this way, the natural world, with its leaves, flowers and trees, are touchstones for him. Using only black lines, Kelly brings to life the essence of the subjects.

Ellsworth Kelly
Cyclamen I

Lithograph, 1964-65.
From Suite of Plant Lithographs.
Signed in pencil, inscribed HC (an hors commerce impression outside of the edition of 75).
Printed on Arches paper by Imprimerie Arte, Paris.
Published by Maeght, Paris.
(Axsom 36).
89.8 x 61.6 cm.

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Ellsworth Kelly
Ailanthus Leaves I (Vernis de japon I)

Lithograph, 1966.
From Suite of Plant Lithographs.
Signed in pencil, numbered from the edition of 75.
Printed on Arches paper by Imprimerie Arte, Paris.
Published by Maeght, Paris.
(Axsom 58).
72.5 x 104.9 cm.

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Ellsworth Kelly, photographed in his Broad Street studio, New York, 1956. Photograph © Onni Saari
Ellsworth Kelly
Magnolia

Lithograph, 1965-66.
From Suite of Plant Lithographs.
Signed in pencil, inscribed HC (an hors commerce impression aside from the edition of 75).
Printed on Arches paper by Imprimerie Arte, Paris.
Published by Maeght, Paris.
(Axsom 56).
88.2 x 61 cm.

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“I think that if you can turn off the mind and look only with the eyes, ultimately everything becomes abstract.”

-Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly
Haricot Vert III (String Bean Leaves III)

Lithograph, 1964-65.
From Suite of Plant Lithographs.
Signed in pencil, numbered from the edition of 75.
Printed on Arches paper by Imprimerie Arte, Paris.
Published by Maeght, Paris.
(Axsom 50).
90.4 x 62.1 cm.

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Ellsworth Kelly
Pamplemousse (Grapefruit)

Lithograph, 1964-65.
From Suite of Plant Lithographs.
Signed in pencil, inscribed HC (an hors commerce impression aside from the edition of 75).
Printed by Imprimerie Arte, Paris.
Published by Maeght, Paris.
(Axsom 33).
89.8 x 61.2 cm.

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Ellsworth Kelly. Train Landscape. Oil on canvas; three joined panels. 1953. | In the collection of The Art Institute of Chicago.

Kelly’s Train Landsdcape is an example from the artist’s formative years in Paris (1948-54) and shows certain features of his work that would recur. The vivid colours are drawn from nature and the title itself refers to fields of lettuce, spinach and mustard that the young artist viewed from a train while speeding through the French countryside. The perceptual blur is pushed to the extreme of flat and pristine shapes, whist still being inspired by nature.

Ellsworth Kelly
Algue (Seaweed)

Lithograph, 1964-65.
From Suite of Plant Lithographs.
Signed in pencil, numbered from the edition of 75.
Printed on Arches paper by Imprimerie Arte, Paris.
Published by Maeght, Paris.
(Axsom 53).
90 x 62.1 cm.

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Ellsworth Kelly
Melon Leaf (Feuille de Melon)

Lithograph, 1964-65.
From Suite of Plant Lithographs.
Signed in pencil, numbered from the edition of 75.
Printed by Imprimerie Arte, Paris.
Published by Maeght, Paris.
(Axsom 44).
90.5 x 62.5 cm.

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“I don’t labour over my drawings. I want to get freedom in the line.”

-Ellsworth Kelly

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