Green White no. 381

  • 1967
  • Ellsworth Kelly
  • oil on canvas
  • 217,1 x 217,5 x 4,2 cm (incl. lijst / frame)
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1969
  • Inventory number 190

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This painting by the American artist Ellsworth Kelly consists of two parts: a square framework with a canvas painted plain white stretched over it and an L-shaped framework with a canvas painted plain green which surrounds the white square. Together the parts create another square.

In 1948 Ellsworth Kelly moved to Paris where he saw the work of the artists Picasso and Klee, which was firmly rooted in Cubism. Details of scenes from reality are arranged as independent geometrical forms within the frame of the painting. Kelly also worked for some time with abstract but still recognizable forms. However, in 1949 he opted for absolute abstraction. Kelly wanted to present things as nothing other than themselves. In contrast with artists such as Mondrian or the Constructionists, Kelly did not have a “higher” aim with his abstract forms. His work did not serve as a model for an ideal society. His design was not based on a theory. He chose his colours and forms purely on the basis of the visual experience which they produced when they were combined.

Kelly used sharply defined geometric or almost geometric forms. In most cases he limited himself to using black or white combined with a different colour. There is no question of any figure or background. Both colours, and therefore both forms, demand the same attention. The whole thing functions as a single object; not as a consumer article but as a visual intervention in the environment. Kelly avoided a personal signature as much as possible in order to emphasise the object-like nature of his work. He therefore painted with colours that covered the canvas evenly. When he returned to New York in 1954, his work was close to that of Indiana and Stella, who were referred to as the “hard edge” together with Kelly. Kelly worked in a large format and the surfaces of his forms are therefore often larger than the viewer’s field of vision. As a result, his works have a strong monumental character.

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