Ellsworth Kelly

Blue Curve

Blue Curve

Ellsworth Kelly at his Coenties Slip studio, New York, 1961

Blue Curve IV, 1972. Oil on canvas. 33 × 32 inches; 84 x 81 cm
Signed, titled, and dated in ink (verso, on canvas overlap): KELLY ‘BLUE CURVE IV’ 1972

With its vivid arc of azure blue set against a white ground, Blue Curve IV is a striking example of Kelly’s paintings of single geometric forms. The work belongs to a group of five paintings of similar scale made in 1972. Each contains a radial curve painted in a single color against a white or black ground, sweeping from the lower left to the upper right of a nearly square canvas.

Five Studies for 1st Curve Series, 1972
Graphite on paper

As with all of his work, Kelly was methodical in preparing the 1972 series. A related study indicates the radius for the curve in each painting; the longer the radius, the gentler the curve’s slope. The same arc used in Blue Curve IV appears again in Curve II, a large-scale steel sculpture made the following year.

Curve II, 1973
Weathering steel
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Philip Johnson

Summer (Blue Curve), 1984
Collage on postcard
The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Blue Relief with Black, 1993
Oil on canvas, two joined panels
Private collection

Ellsworth Kelly

Reclining Nude, 1948

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Ellsworth Kelly

Study for Red Curves, 1954

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“Hovering, too, around Kelly’s circular forms is a hint of sensuality, a byplay between curved forms relating to the human body as well as to geometry.”

—John Coplans, 1971

Ellsworth Kelly

Study for Red Curves, 1954

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Ellsworth Kelly

Avocado, 1959

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“The plant drawings… are exact observations of the form of the leaf or flower or fruit seen. Nothing is changed or added: no shading, no surface marking. They are not an approximation of the thing seen, nor are they a personal expression or an abstraction. They are an impersonal observation of the form.”

—Ellsworth Kelly, 1969

Ellsworth Kelly

Avocado, 1959

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Ellsworth Kelly

Water Lily, 1968

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Ellsworth Kelly

Swim Suits, 1959

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“Ellsworth Kelly’s drawings provoke as much as delight the eye. Does the artist need the world to rescue him from the strictures of abstraction? Or does he turn to abstraction as an antidote to the fatal attraction of things in the world?

Simplification of form in Kelly’s case does not reduce the enlivening tension that evokes the presence of the organic.”

—Linda Nochlin, 1999

Ellsworth Kelly

Swim Suits, 1959

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Ellsworth Kelly

Study for Blue White, 1959–62

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Ellsworth Kelly

Blue and Yellow, 1962

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Ellsworth Kelly

Study for Large Gray Curve (Blue), 1973

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Ellsworth Kelly

Studies for Blue Black Curve I & Red Curve IV, 1971

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Ellsworth Kelly

Curve Seen from a Highway, Austerlitz, 1970

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Ellsworth Kelly

Locust, 1965

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Ellsworth Kelly

Blue and Green, 1959–62

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Ellsworth Kelly

Red on Blue, 1963

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“Kelly’s art is at once extremely austere and utterly delectable. It abounds in bold, delicious color — bright blocks of color that fill the eye with an intensity of concentration unlike anything else in contemporary art — yet it employs forms of such radical simplicity that they will not seem like forms at all to eyes unused to fathoming the special pictorial language the artist has made his own.”

—Hilton Kramer, 1973

Ellsworth Kelly

Red on Blue, 1963

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Ellsworth Kelly

Arch, Pont Neuf, Paris, 1978

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Ellsworth Kelly

Brooklyn Bridge II, 1985

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  • View exhibition checklist
  • The works can be viewed at

    Matthew Marks Gallery, New York through October 10. To make an appointment, please call 212-243-0200 or click here.


    To inquire about available works, please contact Jacqueline Tran at

    212-243-0200 or email jacqueline@matthewmarks.com.

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