Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015) was raised in Newburgh, New York, a suburb north of New York City. Like many artists, his parents refused his pleas for artistic training, though he was allowed to attend the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for technical studies from 1941 to 1943. On New Year’s Day in 1943, Kelly was inducted into the United States Army and was subsequently sent to the European front during World War II. Through the G.I. Bill, Kelly later studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1946 10 1947, as well as at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In Boston, Kelly exhibited in his first group show at the Boris Mirsky Gallery. Through his career in art, Kelly became acquainted with various prominent creative figures of his day, including Max Beckman, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Jean Arp, Constantin Brâncuși, Francis Picabia, Alberto Giacometti, and Leon Polk Smith.
In particular, Kelly was influenced by the late collages of Henri Matisse, whose work Kelly saw in Paris in 1950. The flat, silhouetted, and isolated form that dominates this print called Orange suggests Kelly’s appreciation of Matisse’s boldly simplified shapes in his cut paper collages of the late 1940s and early 1950s. This precisely contoured, organic form also relates to the clarity and purity of the botanical imagery that inspired Kelly in his youth – particularly that of the American naturalist John James Audubon (1785-1851). More than likely, it was the later cut-outs of Matisse that inspired Kelly to move further into the world of hard-edge abstraction, which was affiliated with Minimalism and set out to counteract the sensationalism and hyperbole of Abstract Expressionism.
Text Written by Liz Frasco (Social Media and Communications Specialist)
This work is not on view.