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Ellsworth Kelly: Portrait Drawings


The Art Institute of Chicago, 2023

Purchase from the Art Institute Museum Shop.

Available to booksellers from Yale University Press.

Featuring nearly one hundred figurative works on paper by Ellsworth Kelly (1923–2015), this volume reveals a new side of an artist best known for abstraction. These expressive self-portraits and informal depictions of friends—all rarely or never previously displayed or published—span the entirety of Kelly’s career, from the mid-1940s to the early 2000s.

Throughout his life, Kelly made portraits as a means of keeping his hand adept at drawing, which provided a place to test his ideas, refine his bold use of lines, and interrogate the space between naturalism and abstraction. These works also capture his social milieu, which intersected with other creative circles and the queer community. He painstakingly recorded how his own appearance changed over time, and once described some of these sketches by saying, “I use myself in order to draw.” The accompanying critical essays delve into the ways in which such intimate efforts were fundamental to Kelly’s practice, situating this important aspect of his work within the artist’s wider oeuvre.

Edited by Kevin Salatino with Emily Vokt Ziemba

With contributions by Jordan Carter, Richard Meyer, Kevin Salatino, and Susan Tallman, and an interview with Jack Shear

188 pages, 9 × 10 in.
130 color illus.

Hardcover $50 ($45 members)
ISBN: 978-0-300-269741


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