Geometry is moribund.
I want a lilt and joy to art.

Ellsworth Kelly

Nature Abstracted

The Plant Drawings of Ellsworth Kelly

For Ellsworth Kelly, a plant drawing is not simply a rendering of a plant. It is a portrait, a remembrance of his meeting with the subject, and perhaps most importantly, a bridge to his larger painted abstractions. Kelly began creating these line drawings in the late 1940s, at the time of his breakthrough in Paris. Relying on only the weight of the continuous line to convey the subject’s presence, Kelly followed in the tradition of artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Calder, allowing abstract shapes to emerge from nature. The artist saw these as important exercises in the letting go of self-consciousness and within the reductive nature of the drawings, he was able to find a foundation for many of his paintings. Kelly has continued to create his plant drawings over the decades and they have been featured in two major surveys at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, most recently, Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings, 5 June - 3 September 2012, where this particular work was exhibited. 

Ellsworth Kelly

American minimalist painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly rendered his surroundings into abstract, essential shapes and varying planes of color and empty space. After studying at the Pratt Institute in New York, he was deployed to France during World War II, where his fascination with Paris and European artists was first sparked. While in France, Kelly surrounded himself with like-minded artists including Alexander Calder and began to develop his iconic style through paintings and collages “that were arranged according to the laws of chance.” In 1954, he returned to the U.S. and gained immediate success at New York gallery shows where he exhibited his geometric, minimalist paintings and totemic sculptures. Kelly earned his first retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1973, and has since been the subject of retrospectives at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Tate Modern in London.

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