The artist Ellsworth Kelly died on Sunday, aged 92. Known for his bold abstract painting and uniquely shaped canvases, the artist continued working right up to the end, with a slew of exhibitions held this year, including new work shown by his Chelsea gallery Matthew Marks. As we wrote in an interview with the artist published in April, as he prepared the shows, some of these new pictures build on ideas Kelly conceived years ago: multiple panels, each painted a single colour, sitting next to or atop one another. “My work is meant to be enjoyed,” Kelly said. “If you can enjoy the colour and the relationship of forms, and what they do to you—that’s it.”
Kelly was born in Newburgh, New York, on 31 May 1923, but after several moves, his family eventually settled in Oradell, New Jersey, where he attended junior high school. There, he drew cover illustrations for his school’s literary magazine and began to paint outdoors. Later, at Dwight Morrow High School, Kelly acted in school plays and earned a scholarship to study drama in college, but his parents did not approve, so he never enrolled.
In 1941, Kelly enrolled in art school at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, but left in 1943 to join the war effort. He worked for the 603rd Engineers Camouflage Battalion, designing propaganda posters and camouflage patterns. After the war, Kelly studied art briefly in Boston, but moved to Paris in 1948. He lived in the French capital for six years and took classes at the École des Beaux-Arts, with support from the GI Bill for US veterans.