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In the abstract

The List: 5 facts about Ellsworth Kelly

Ellsworth Kelly stamp dedication
USPS Marketing Vice President Steve Monteith, left, and Jack Shear, director of the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and the late artist’s husband, hold a framed photo of him before the May 31 stamp dedication ceremony.

To help mark the release of the new Ellsworth Kelly stamps, here are five facts about the pioneering abstract artist.

1. Kelly’s interest in art was piqued by birds. Kelly, who was born in New York in 1923, had his passion for color and form awakened by bird watching and the detailed avian portraits painted by John James Audubon. During World War II, Kelly served in the so-called Ghost Army, whose mission was to deceive German forces with inflatable decoy tanks and false radio transmissions.

2. Parisian architecture also influenced Kelly. After the war, Kelly followed his eye to the French capital and its ephemeral shapes formed by light and shadow. In 1949, he created a series of abstract paintings from real things, including a window, a kilometer marker and a tennis court. During this period, Kelly also began to make gridded artworks comprising multiple canvases arranged to form a single multi-panel painting.

3. His style evolved throughout his career. In 1954, Kelly moved to New York City, where he rented a studio in lower Manhattan. In the decade that followed, he produced more than 200 of what he called “form and ground” paintings, referring to a shape (the form) and how it interacts with what lies behind it. By the 1970s, Kelly had relocated to Spencertown, NY, where he focused primarily on two-panel paintings and also created more sculptures.

4. The Ellsworth Kelly stamps feature some of his best-known works. The pane showcases 10 designs, with each stamp appearing twice. The works include “Blue Red Rocker,” which was completed in 1963 and is part of the Stedelijk Museum in the Netherlands; and “Colors for a Large Wall,” which is comprised of 64 painted square panels arranged in a grid at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

5. Kelly received the National Medal of Arts in 2013. The award was presented to him in a White House ceremony, two years before his death. His legacy also includes his many works, which are displayed at museums, government buildings and other public spaces around the world.

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