Ellsworth Kelly, bold postwar abstract painter, dies at 92

Ellsworth Kelly, an abstract American painter who created bold works during his long career, has died. He was 92.

Kelly died at his Spencertown, New York home Sunday, reports The New York Times. His death was announced by Matthew Marks, who has worked with Kelly over the past 20 years, of the Matthew Marks Gallery in New York.

Although an American artist, born in Newburgh, New York, Kelly was mostly influenced by Europeans. After serving in World War II, he studied at Boston’s School of the Museum of Fine Arts, but refined his craft in Paris, where he moved to in 1948. He didn’t return to New York until 1954, when he heard that abstract work was finally getting positive reviews.

Kelly’s works often featured only a few colors and he was not limited to just canvas. One of his famous pieces is Red Yellow Blue White and Black (1953), which featured seven canvas panels covered with the colors of the title. A 2007 piece called Green Blue Black Red features four individual canvases of varying sizes with the colors on them. The green one is a completely green canvas, the blue one is all blue, and so on.

In an NPR interview, Kelly said that his use of bold colors was influenced by his New Jersey childhood.

“I’ve always been a colorist,” he told NPR. “I think I started when I was very young, being a birdwatcher fascinated by the bird colors.”

Kelly received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2013. He is survived by his husband, Jack Shear, and his brother David.

“I feel like I’m 20 in my head,” Kelly told NPR when he turned 90. “My painting makes me feel good and I just feel like I can live on.”

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Daniel S Levine

Daniel S Levine is a longtime movie fan and a graduate of Hoftsra University. I also know just about everything you might need to know about Star Wars.