Colors for a Large Wall
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Arty Fact

More about Colors for a Large Wall

mhampton's picture


If you know Ellsworth Kelly, you know he’s the dude who does things with colors and shapes that leave people asking the question “Is this art?”

And before we go any further, I just want to make it clear: yes, it is art. It’s abstract, and it’s minimal, and you might not understand it. But that doesn’t diminish what it is. 

Colors For a Large Wall was the beginning of Kelly’s journey into arranging colorful shapes together. At the time, Kelly was studying in France, and artists like Joan Miro, Jean Arp, and Alexander Calder all influenced what would become his signature style. For this painting, he also pulled a lot of his ideas from Surrealism and automatic drawing, which at its heart focused on spontaneity. 

Colors For a Large Wall is minimal in its presentation, but abstract in its meaning and design. It might be hard to tell, but this painting isn’t just painted squares on a single surface. It’s actually a bunch of individually painted squares that were arbitrarily placed together, like a puzzle. This makes it feel much more organic and alive. Creating in this way was the debut of Kelly’s signature method of thinking when it came to his art. It was so much more than some paint on a canvas; it was one object made up of smaller objects, building blocks that made up bigger entities, much like everything else in the universe. 

Traditionally speaking, paintings were for representing tangible things. Look at any biblical Renaissance painting and you’ll know what I’m talking about. And that’s not to say that Kelly’s work isn't about anything or that it doesn’t have anything to say. It certainly does. It just might not be easy to decipher, since there is no obvious narrative storytelling going on. And that may be why people have a hard time accepting it as art. Kelly wasn’t trying to recreate a scene from a famous work of literature, or study the way that light hits the ocean surface. He was much more concerned with harnessing the randomness of the world, and presenting it in its authenticity. Colors For a Large Wall is ultimately more about the “why” than it is the “how” or the “what”, and when you see the trajectory of Kelly’s career that spawned from this particular painting, I think you can say that it was the right thread for him to pull on.



  1. Britannica. “Ellsworth Kelly - American painter, sculptor, and printmaker” Accessed August 19, 2020.
  2. Guzman, Jeanine. “Ellsworth Kelly: The Man Behind Shape, Form And Color” Culture Trip. December 20, 2016.
  3. The Art Story. “Ellsworth Kelly Artworks” Accessed August 19, 2020.

Comments (1)

Lexi K

I enjoy this picture with all the colors that were used. I remember one time we talked about the importance of the actual color and not everyone can just do something like this. It takes a lot more knowledge than we know and I think that stuck out to me so I appreciate this art work even more. I would love to see what this looks like in person.