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Ellsworth KELLY

United States of America born 1923

Orange curve
[Orange white] 1964-65 Title Notes: (Title altered by artist - see file 81/0943)
New York, United States of America
Creation Notes: artist confirmed in 1985 that the correct dating of the work is 1964/65 and the inscription is incorrect
Painting, oil on canvas
Primary Insc: signed and dated on canvas return u.r., ballpoint pen, "EK 1963" [see notes]
310 h x 244.5 w cm
Purchased 1977
Accession No: NGA 77.794
© Ellsworth Kelly

  • with Sidney Janis, New York, 1965;
  • with Locksley Shea Gallery, Minneapolis, c.1966; with Lewis M. Kaplan and Associates, London;
  • with Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, 1975;
  • bought by the Australian National Gallery from Margo Leavin Gallery, August 1977
  • Ellsworth Kelly finds a shape in nature or architecture, isolates a detail that has great formal appeal and gives it monumental form in highly sensuous paintings and sculptures. His shapes are not the ones most common in geometry, but are slightly eccentric, so that the swelling shape in Orange curve sags slightly to meet the vertical border just below the halfway point. The sensuousness of Orange curve comes from the delicacy of that touch between shape and edge, from the shape’s resemblance to the female breast, and from the yolk-like orange of the bulge and the creaminess of its surrounds.

    Kelly said that ‘the salient feature’ of his painting between 1954 and 1965 ‘was a large curved form that squeezed the ground to the edge of the canvas’. Within these very strict self-imposed limitations he achieved an art that is abstract, ordered, clear, elegant and has great presence. The orange form appears to be half in and half out of the picture and presses against the edge as though trapped. These tendencies, along with the intensity and density of colour, help to make the painting almost alarmingly alive.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
    From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

  • Kelly's studies in Paris between 1949 and 1954 put him in contact with a number of established European artists including Jean Arp (1887-1966), Contstantin Brancusi (1876-1957) and Georges Vantongerloo (1886-1965), whose example was influential in giving a direction to his work. He defined the basic ingredients for a boldly coloured, hard-edged abstract art that he was to develop fully on his return to the United States. Referring to the work he did between 1954 and 1965 Kelly stated that, 'the salient feature of my painting at that time was a large curved form that squeezed the ground to the edge of the canvas'.1

    This is an apt description for the swelling orange cumulus that dominates the white field of Orange white 1964-65 in the Australian National Gallery's collection. The interaction of the assertive curved shape against the plain ground in this work is a format common to a number of works, each differing in size, colour and the proportion of figure to ground. Kelly thoroughly investigated the impact of change in the many variations of this basic composition in prints and sculpture as well as painting during the 1960s. The artist has confirmed the dating of 1964-65 and the title for Orange white.2

    Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.348.

    1. Ellsworth Kelly, 'Ellsworth Kelly', in Colin Naylor (ed.), Contemporary Artists, Chicago: St James Press, 1989, pp.485-6, p.486.
    2. Margo H. Levin, correspondence with the Gallery, 12 June 1985.

    Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010