It took the New York art world a while to understand and embrace the simple and elegant style that  Ellsworth Kelly had cultivated during his six years in Paris in the 1950s.

Even when Kelly was a child, he saw the world in terms of its basic elements. He liked to tell the story of running around the neighborhood with his friends one Halloween night, when he saw forms through a window that he found intriguing. He left his friends to take a closer look at the abstract configuration. “I saw a red, shape, a blue shape, and a black shape,” he said, “I had to find out what it was.” He looked in the window and saw only furniture, curtains and the ordinary things that make up a room. As he slowly backed away, the shapes he had seen began to form again. He said that experience was, “very close to seeing my first abstraction.”

Kelly drew and painted things exactly the way he saw them, transforming the real into simple, abstract form and color.

Ellsworth Kelly at Christie’s

Ellsworth Kelly moved to New York in 1954. He lived at Coenties Slip, on the southeast tip of Manhattan, along with such great artists as Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist, Jack Youngerman and LOVE artist, Robert Indiana.

Kelly and Robert Indiana became close friends and, in 1957, Kelly gave Indiana a painting of an orange peel. The work, titled Orange Blue or Orange Peel, has an inscription on the back that reads, “EK 1957 FOR ROBERT AN ORANGE PEEL FROM PIER 7.”

Robert Indiana died this past May, at age 89. Indiana wanted his historic home on the Maine island of Vinalhaven to be turned into a museum, but the fate of the estate and its contents have been mired in legal disputes.

Indiana’s estate attorney has auctioned off some of Indiana’s personal collection, including Ellsworth Kelly’s Orange Peel.

The painting was auctioned at Christie’s New York a few weeks ago. Orange Peel was estimated to sell for $900,000 – $1,200,000. The price realized was $2,772,500 … more than double the estimated high.

Ellsworth Kelly Fine Art Prints at VFA

Like the simplicity of Orange Peel, Ellsworth Kelly’s uncomplicated style lent itself to his creating refined contour drawings of plants and flowers. In the 1960s, Kelly worked with Paris printers, Maeght Éditeur, to create the Suite of Twenty-Seven Lithographs. In 1964, he exhibited in Paris at Galerie Maeght, owned by Aimé and Marguerite Maeght, who printed many of Kelly’s plant series.

Leaves, available at Vertu Fine Art, was done as part of the Suite. Leaves and other works from the Suite of Twenty-Seven Lithographs can be found in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Tate and many other major galleries and museums.

Please contact us if you would like more information about Leaves or any of the other fine artworks available at VFA.

See More Ellsworth Kelly Work for Sale

Mark Shanahan. Auction of paintings will help repair late artist Robert Indiana’s Maine home. Boston Globe. November 17, 2018.
Karen Wright. The Artist’s Studio: Ellsworth Kelly. Vanity Fair. July 17, 2012.
Elisa Wouk Almino. Ellsworth Kelly Explains His Relationship to Abstraction. Hyperallergic. September 2, 2016.