Lecture: Ellsworth Kelly: From New York to Paris and Back Again, Thrice

Yve-Alain Bois, Professor of Art History, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University
Sat, October 13, 2018

As a young enlisted soldier in World War II, Ellsworth Kelly spent a brief spell in Paris. After the war, following two frustrating years at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, he returned to the French capital for a longer period. Postwar Paris offered Kelly the chance to quickly master the pictorial language of modernism, and by age 26, he had already painted his first mature works. In June 1954, he moved back to the United States, embarking on a new stylistic mode involving curvaceous planes of solid color. During a 1964 trip to Paris for an exhibition of his recent works at the Galerie Maeght, Kelly realized the two suites of lithographs displayed in Line & Color: The Nature of Ellsworth Kelly. In this lecture, Bois explores how Kelly, enjoying this third visit to France, reconnected with aesthetic ideas from his long stay years earlier. Back in America, Kelly mined his sketchbooks from 1949–54 to momentarily say farewell to curves and return to polyptychs.