Ellsworth Kelly was born in Newburgh, New York in 1923. From 1941 to 1943, he attended Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. After serving in the military from 1943 to 1945, he attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. In 1948, Kelly went to Paris, where he enrolled at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under the G.I. Bill.
While in France, he discovered Romanesque and Byzantine art and Surrealism and Neo-Plasticism. In 1950, Kelly met Jean Arp and began producing shaped-wood reliefs and collages, arranging elements according to the laws of chance. He traveled throughout France during the 1950s, meeting Georges Vantongerloo, Alexander Calder, and Constantin Brancusi, among other artists.
Kelly had his first solo show in 1951 at the Galerie Arnaud in Paris. In 1954, Kelly returned to the United States, to lower Manhattan, where his neighbors included Robert Indiana, Agnes Martin and Jack Youngerman. His first solo show in New York was at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1956. Three years later, he participated in “Sixteen Americans” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In 1970, Kelly moved out of Manhattan and set up a studio in Chatham. His first retrospective was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1973. An exhibition of Kelly’s prints and works on paper traveled extensively in the United States and Canada from 1987 to 1988. In 1996, a career retrospective, organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Tate Gallery in London and the Haus der Kunst in Munich. Ellsworth Kelly currently lives in Spencertown.