Artist Ellsworth Kelly has died, according to his dealer, Matthew Marks of the Matthew Marks Gallery. He was 92. Born in Newburgh, NY, on May 31, 1923, Kelly studied painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston after his discharge from the Army in 1945. His formative years as an artist were in Paris, which he visited briefly during World War II. Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse, and Jean Arp were all huge influences. After being abroad for six years, Kelly decided to return to America in 1954. Upon his return to New York, he found the art world “very tough.” Although Kelly is now considered an essential innovator and contributor to the American art movement, it was hard for many to find the connection between Kelly’s art and the dominant stylistic trends.
In May 1956 Kelly had his first New York exhibition at Betty Parsons’ Gallery and he showed again at her gallery in the fall of 1957. Three of his pieces: Atlantic, Bar, and Painting in Three Panels, were selected and shown for the Whitney Museum of American Art‘s exhibit, “Young America 1957.”
Kelly shared a studio with fellow artist and friend Agnes Martin, up to the ninth floor of the high-rise studio/co-op Hotel des Artistes at 27 West 67th Street but he left New York City for Spencertown in 1970 and was joined by his partner, photographer Jack Shear, in 1984.
Kelly’s work is shown and collected throughout the world and his influence is immeasurable. Just two years ago, on the occasion of the artist’s 90th birthday in 2013, the National Gallery of Art in Washington mounted an exhibition of his prints; the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia put together five sculptures in a show; the Phillips Collectionin Washington exhibited his panel paintings; and the Museum of Modern Art opened a show of the “Chatham Series”.