Ellsworth Kelly
American, 1923-2015

Red Yellow Blue White and Black, 1953

Oil on canvas, seven joined panels
99.1 x 350.2 cm (39 x 138 in.)
Partial and promised gift of Anstiss and Ronald Krueck, 2001.157

© Ellsworth Kelly

Red Yellow Blue White and Black

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Ellsworth Kelly’s paintings emphasize the basics of color, form, and shape. While living in Europe from 1948 to 1954, he made an important trip to Colmar, France, to see Matthias Grünewald’s legendary Isenheim Altarpiece of around 1515. The experience was fundamental to Kelly’s sustaining interest in multipanel painting. This work, one of the most influential of Kelly’s early paintings on canvas, is among the last he completed in Paris before returning to live and work in New York. It was realized at a crucial moment in the artist’s development, just as he was beginning to explore the near-infinite possibilities of monochrome, the color spectrum, chance ordering, and multipanel composition.