Ellsworth Kelly, Spencertown studio, NY, 2012 © Jack Shear, Courtesy of Ellsworth Kelly Studio

Kelly, Ellsworth

Newburgh, New York, 1923 | New York, 2015

Jenny Holzer | Artistas | Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa



Born in May 31, Newburgh, New York.


Studies Art at the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn.


Is recruited for the 603rd Camouflage Engineer Battalion, a deception unit, later part of the 3rd Special Troops, also known as the Ghost Army. This artful military unit, practices visual, sonic, radio and atmospheric deception for the purpose of confusing the enemy. Travels through Europe, visiting Paris for the first time.


Studies at the School of the Fine Arts Museum in Boston, now part of Tufts University, where he develops his interest in Lombard Romanesque of Catalonia, sparked by the apse of the small church of Santa Maria de Mur he saw during his visits to the Boston Museum, paralleled by an impulse toward the Byzantine. He moves to France, where he meets Jean Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miró, and Jack Youngerman, among others.


Arrives in France and visits Matthias Grünewald’s masterpiece, Isenheim Altarpiece (ca. 1512–16), in Colmar (Alsace). During this period enrolls at the École de Beaux-Arts.


Interested in European architecture and its details, Kelly explores essential patterns or forms. He considers the two-panel work Window, Museum of Modern Art, Paris as his first object and a turning point in his approach to painting.


First solo show at the Galerie Arnaud, Paris.


Visits Monet’s studio at Giverny, which inspires him to create his first monochrome, Tableau Vert.


Returns to New York at the height of Abstract Expressionism. His work heads in a direction totally opposite to the postulates of this movement. He will share artistic concerns with Robert Indiana, Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist, and Jack Youngerman, among others. Makes Black Curves and Yellow Curves.


Opens his first solo show in USA, Paintings 1951–1956, at the Betty Parsons Gallery.


The Whitney Museum of American Art is the first institution to acquire a work by Kelly, Atlantic.


Makes a series of wood reliefs. Exhibits work at the later renamed Carnegie International, such as Aubade, acquired by the Institute. Solo show at the Galerie Maeght.


Ellsworth Kelly: Painting and Sculpture opens at the Betty Parsons Gallery. Participates in the Museum of Modern Art’s ground-breaking Sixteen Americans exhibition.


His work is included at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum exhibition Abstract Expressionists Imagists.


His work Black and White is awarded by the Art Institute of Chicago, at 65th Annual American Exhibition. A solo show opens at the Arthur Tooth & Sons gallery, London. Tate acquires Broadway.


Minister of Education Award at the 7th International Art Exhibition of Japan (Seventh Tokyo Biennale). Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings by Ellsworth Kelly opens at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art, and later at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.


Receives the Painting Prize from the Pittsburgh International Exhibition of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, later renamed as Carnegie International. Participates at the Documenta III, Kassel.


First solo exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery. Kelly blurs the line between painting and sculpture with the wall/floor pieces Red Blue Green Yellow and Blue Red.


Shows his work at the US pavilion of the XXXIII Venice Biennale. Participates in Two Decades of American Painting, organized by the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, that travels to Tokyo, New Delhi, Melbourne, and Sydney. First solo exhibition in Los Angeles, at Ferus Gallery.


The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum acquires Blue Green Yellow Orange Red. Participates on 94 Guggenheim International Exhibition 1967: Sculpture from Twenty Nations, that travels from New York to several museums in Canada. White Over Blue is commissioned by Montreal’s Expo 67 for a Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome. Visits Joan Miró in Mallorca, where he photographs architectural details.


Participates in Documenta IV, Kassel, and in The Art of the Real: USA 1948–1968 (The Art of the Real: An Aspect of American Painting and Sculpture, 1948–1968), at MOMA, with later venues in, Zurich, and London. Produces Yellow Blue, commissioned for the Empire State Plaza Art Collection in Albany, New York.


Presents the mural Blue Green for the UNESCO building in Paris. Finds a new studio in Spencertown, in an old 19th-century brick building, that will have an important influence in his artistic development.


Shows for the first time Mirrored Concorde, in Technics and Creativity: Selections from Gemini G.E.L., at Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York. Two monographs on his art are published.


Exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. Paints Yellow Curve I, now at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Collection; Red Curve II (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam); and Blue Curve III (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), inspired in the fanlight on the landing between two floors of his Spencertown house.


Begins to work in large outdoor sculptures such as Curve I, Curve II, Stele I and Stele II. First exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery, New York. First retrospective at MoMA, New York, with former venues in Pasadena, Minneapolis, and Detroit.


Elected member of National Institute of Arts and Letters.  Participates in the Seventy-First American Exhibition, at The Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, and receives Painting Prize.


First solo exhibition at Blum Helman Gallery, New York.


Participates in Twentieth-Century American Drawing: Three Avant-Garde Generations, that will travel from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden and Kunsthalle Bremen. Begins to collaborate with Tyler Graphics Ltd, Bedford Village, New York, with Colored paper images.


Exhibits in Paris-New York, at the Centre Pompidou, Colors for a Large Wall, and a selection of his drawings at Documenta VI, Kassel.


Solo show, Ellsworth Kelly: Recent Paintings and Sculpture, opens at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the solo exhibition, Ellsworth Kelly: Paintings and Sculptures 1963–1979, originating at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam travels to Hayward Gallery, London; Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; and Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.


Receives the Medal for Sculpture from Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine, and completes Curve XXII, the 11 meter-high sculpture for Lincoln Park, Chicago.


Traveling solo exhibition, Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture, originating at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, later on view at the Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri. Creates his Eleven Painted Wall Sculptures.


Curve XXIX is installed on grounds of Farnsworth House, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Plano, Illinois. Receives commission from Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Texas.


Receives sculpture commission from the city of Barcelona: a nearly 15 m high totem-like high sculpture to be installed at the Plaza del General Moragues (La Sagrera). Kelly’s photographs are exhibited at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut. Receives commission by architect I. M. Pei for Raffles City, Singapore, and creates Red Curve.


Creates Houston Triptych for the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


Travelling solo exhibitions: Ellsworth Kelly: a print retrospective, at Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan; Ellsworth Kelly: works on paper, at Fort Worth Art Museum, Texas and Ellsworth Kelly: Small Sculpture 1958-87 at Bakalar Gallery, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Boston.


The French Government honors him with the Chevalier dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres in New York French Embassy. Double Curve is presented at the opening of Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden, Minneapolis and Untitled at the new Ryda and Robert H. Levi Sculpture Garden, The Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland. Returns to make joined-panels paintings.


White Curve (1991) is installed at the hall of the building of Nestlé SA in Vevey, Switzerland; and Dallas Panels (Blue Green Black Red), at I. M. Pei’s Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Dallas.


Kasper König’s invites for solo exhibition curated at Portikus in Frankfurt, Germany by Gottfried Boehm, and creates his first floor painting, Yellow Curve. Conceives and installs Artist’s Choice: Ellsworth Kelly, Fragmentation and The Single Form at MoMA, New York.


Participates in the Whitney Biennial exhibition. Establishes his Foundation with the aim to provide support to the arts through grants.


Opens travelling exhibition co-organized by the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Ellsworth Kelly: The Early years in France 1948–1954. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum commissions Memorial.


Awarded title of Friend of Barcelona and medal by Pasqual Maragall, Mayor of the city, in New York. Receives award Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, Washington, DC, from the French government; The Carré d’Art, Musée d’art contemporain de Nîmes, France, is inaugurated with Ellsworth Kelly’s Gaul, commissioned for its Lobby.


Exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: The Process of Seeing at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.


Receives a commission to create Blue Green Black Red (1996).


Ellsworth Kelly: A Retrospective opens at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and tours to MOCA, Los Angeles; Tate Gallery, London, and Haus der Kunst, Munich.


Receives Honorary Doctorate, Royal College of Art, London.


Receives commission to create the Berlin Panels (2000) for the Bundestag Building, Berlin; and Boston Panels (1996–98) is unveiled at the John Joseph Moakley US Courthouse in Boston. Inaugurates at the Metropolitan Ellsworth Kelly on the Roof.


San Francisco Museum of Modern Art purchases 22 Ellsworth Kelly works from artist’s own collection. The Smithsonian awards him with the Archives of American Art Medal. Installs The Chicago Panels (1998–1999) at the Art Institute of Chicago.


Correspondences: Isamu Noguchi and Ellsworth Kelly opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Awarded the Praemium Imperiale Prize for Painting, Japan Art Association, Tokyo.


The French government promotes him to Commandeur des Arts et des lettres. The Royal Academy of Arts of London appoints him as Honorary Academician. Installs White Curves (2001) at the Beyeler Foundation Garden, Riehen-Basel, Switzerland.


Travelling exhibition Henri Matisse/Ellsworth Kelly: dessins de plantes, opens at the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and later travels to the Saint Louis Art Museum. Ellsworth Kelly: Selected Works opens at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts; and Ellsworth Kelly –In-Between Spaces. Works 1956–2002, at the Beyeler foundation.


Ellsworth Kelly: Red Green Blue, opens at Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, California, traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and later to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Receives Honorary Doctorate of Arts by the Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Commissioned by FAPE (Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies) to create a wall sculpture for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.


Solo exhibition, Ellsworth Kelly in Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art.


Ellsworth Kelly: Tablet presents the works acquired by the Menil Collection, Houston. Granted Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts by Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts.


Solo exhibitions: Ellsworth Kelly in St Ives, at Tate St Ives, England; Ellsworth Kelly in Resonance: Selections from the Collection, at Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Ellsworth Kelly, at Serpentine Gallery, London.


Solo exhibitions: Focus: Ellsworth Kelly, at MoMA, New York; Front Room: Ellsworth Kelly, at Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore. Directed by Edgar Howard Tom Piper Ellsworth Kelly: Fragments documentary is released. Participates in the 52nd Venice Biennale at the Italian Pavilion.


Commissioned by FAPE in 2006 for Berlin Totem (2008), installed at the US Embassy Courtyard, and to design the Foundation official Leonore and Walter Annenberg Award for Diplomacy through the Arts. In Correspondences Musée d’Orsay / Contemporary Art, his work is paired with Paul Cézanne’s.


Travelling solo exhibition Drawings 1954–1962, originating at Matthew Marks Gallery, New York. The 16,5 m-high White Curve (2009), commissioned by The Art Institute of Chicago, is installed at The Margot and Thomas Pritzker Garden. Promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur.


Solo exhibition, Plants, Flowers and Fruits: Ellsworth Kelly Lithographs, at Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, California. Kelly is recipient of a Pratt Legends Award, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York, and granted Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts by the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Travelling solo exhibitions: Plant Drawings, originating at Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich; Black & white, originating at Haus der Kunst, Munich; solo exhibition, Ellsworth Kelly: Wood Sculpture, at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. September 11, at MoMA PS1, features his Ground Zero (2003) proposal for the WTC.


Solo exhibitions: Ellsworth Kelly: Plant Drawings, at Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Ellsworth Kelly: Prints and Paintings, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Ellsworth Kelly: Colored Paper images, at National Gallery of Art, Washington DC.; Barnes Totem is unveiled at the opening of the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia.


Solo exhibitions: Ellsworth Kelly: The Chatham Series, at Museum of Modern Art, New York; Ellsworth Kelly: Panel Paintings 2004–2009, at Phillips Collection, Washington DC; Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall, at Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; travelling exhibition, Ellsworth Kelly: Prints, originates at Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, Wisconsin. Winner of the College Art Association’s artist award for lifetime achievement and receives the 2012 National Medal of Arts by President Obama.


Monet/Kelly opens at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Colored Panels (Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, Violet) and Spectrum VIII are unveiled at the Louis Vuitton Foundation inaugural exhibition. Matisse Drawings is curated by Kelly from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation Collection, at the South Hadley, MA, Mount Holyoke College Museum, South Hadley, Massachusetts, and will travel to Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina and Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, New York (2016).


Gifts to the Blanton the design concept for Austin, a building with luminous colored glass windows, a totemic wood sculpture, and fourteen black-and-white stone panels in marble.

Ellsworth Kelly dies at his Spencertown home on December 27th, at the age of 92.