Ellsworth Kelly
American painter, sculptor, and printmaker



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Ellsworth Kelly
American painter, sculptor, and printmaker
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Birth Date

May 31, 1923

Death Date

December 27, 2015

More about Ellsworth Kelly

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Ellsworth Kelly was a shy young lad with a stutter and a love of birds.

Once, when he was sick as a child, his mother and grandmother gave him a book about birds and as soon as he was well again, he ran outside to study them firsthand. He said that part of the fun of watching birds was trying “to get close enough to see how very beautiful they are.” He was a bit of a loner, but he had his birds to keep him company so his adolescence was pretty great. That is until World War II broke out and Ellsworth Kelly volunteered.
You would never think that you could get artistic training in the military but Ellsworth Kelly pulled it off. He did military camouflage, which got his creative juices flowing. In an interview with Gwyneth Paltrow (random I know), he stated that “[he] was in what they called the camouflage secret army.” They inflated dummies of tanks and then when the Germans attacked them they would quickly bail and the Americans would attack them from behind. This was incredibly dangerous but astonishingly, Kelly came out of it unscathed…the lucky bastard. 
He then used his G.I. Bill to study art in Boston and Paris, where he ultimately found his aesthetic, which consists of giant, planar canvases of one color hung together as if it were one painting. Looking at them basically makes you feel like an ant. Everything about his art from its literal size to its importance in the art world is gigantic. But his ideas were gigantic from the time he was a child. He once asked his mother when he was a little kid, “if Heaven is so great, why don’t we just kill ourselves?” to which his mother had no answer. Looking back on the instance with his pal Gwyn, he said, “Who wants heaven? I want another 10 or 15 years of being here. When you get to age 90, you have to accept it. This has been my life. It is what it is. I put everything into it that I could.” If this didn’t drive you to an existential crisis then just go look at his art…

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly (May 31, 1923 – December 27, 2015) was an American painter, sculptor, and printmaker associated with hard-edge painting, Color Field painting and minimalism. His works demonstrate unassuming techniques emphasizing line, color and form, similar to the work of John McLaughlin and Kenneth Noland. Kelly often employed bright colors. He lived and worked in Spencertown, New York.


Kelly was born the second son of three to Allan Howe Kelly and Florence Rose Elizabeth (Githens) Kelly in Newburgh, New York, approximately 60 miles north of New York City. His father was an insurance company executive of Scots-Irish and German descent. His mother was a former schoolteacher of Welsh and Pennsylvania German stock. His family moved from Newburgh to Oradell, New Jersey, a town of nearly 7,500 people. His family lived near the Oradell Reservoir, where his paternal grandmother introduced him to ornithology when he was eight or nine years old.

There he developed his passion for form and color. John James Audubon had a particularly strong influence on Kelly's work throughout his career. Author Eugene Goossen speculated that the two- and three-color paintings (such as Three Panels: Red Yellow Blue, I 1963) for which Kelly is so well known can be traced to his bird watching and his study of the two- and three-color birds he saw so frequently at an early age. Kelly has said he was often alone as a young boy and became somewhat of a "loner". He had a slight stutter that persisted into his teenage years.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Ellsworth Kelly.