About the Artist 

Ellsworth Kelly is regarded as one of the most important abstract painters, sculptors, and printmakers working today. Spanning seven decades, his career is marked by the independent route his art has taken from any formal school or art movement and by his innovative contribution to twentieth century painting and sculpture. Kelly draws on the connection between abstraction and nature from which he extrapolates forms and colors.  Since the beginning of his career, Kelly’s emphasis on pure form and color and his impulse to suppress gesture in favor of creating spatial unity have played a pivotal role in the development of abstract art in America. 

Kelly was born in Newburgh, New York, in 1923. Following two years of studies at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, Kelly served in the Army during World War II from 1943 to 1945, and then resumed his education at the Boston Museum School. He returned to Paris in 1948 under the G.I. Bill and enrolled in the École des Beaux-Arts where he lived and studied for six years. 

Kelly’s first one-man exhibition was at the Galerie Arnaud in Paris in 1951. His retrospective exhibitions include Ellsworth Kelly at the Museum of Modern Art in 1973; Ellsworth Kelly Recent Paintings and Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1979; Ellsworth Kelly Sculpture in 1982 at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Saint Louis Art Museum; and Ellsworth Kelly: A Retrospective in 1996 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Tate, London and the Haus der Kunst in Munich.

Recent exhibitions include Ellsworth Kelly Black and White at the Haus der Kunst and the Museum Wiesbaden; Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Louisiana Museum of Art, Humlebaek and the Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; and Ellsworth Kelly: The Chatham Series at the Museum of Modern Art.

Honors and Awards

Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees from:
Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, 1993
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, 1996
Royal College of Art, London, 1997
Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003
Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2005
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 2010
Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts, 2013

National Institute of Arts & Letters, Member, 1974
French Republic, l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 1987
French Republic, Ordre National De La Legion de Honneur et Patrie, 1992
American Academy of Arts & Science, Fellow of the Academy, 1996
Japan Art Association, Praemium Imperiale Award, Tokyo, 2000

Royal Academy of Arts, Honorary Royal Academician, 2001
American Federation of Arts, Cultural Leadership Award, 2001
Americans for the Arts, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2007
National Medal of Arts, 2012
College Art Association, Lifetime Achievement Award, 2013


Photo © 2009 Jack Shear