Paul Kelpe

German-American , 1902 - 1985

Paul Kelpe was a German-born American abstract painter, printmaker, sculptor and art professor. A student of Wassily Kandinsky and Laszló Moholy-Nagy before coming to America, he was a key figure in the development of Constructivist Abstraction in America, and an innovator of “spatial illusionism”. His constructions which integrated found objects into paintings, were the first such works created in the United States. Hired by Burgoyne Diller, he painted two of the five Williamsburg Housing Project murals for the New York WPA mural program–also the first abstract murals created in the United States. He said of his own work in 1936: "I compose my paintings of form and color, like a musician composes music with rhythm and sound.", Paul Kelpe: Abstractions and Constructions, 1925-1940, Katherine Manthorne, 1990.

Kelpe's work was included in the historic American Abstract Artists 1937 print portfolio, which consisted of original lithographs by the 30 founding members of the pioneer association. His work is held by numerous museums throughout the country including: Art Institute of Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art.
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