Three Trees (1)

Ellsworth Kelly American

Not on view

This sheet, along with two related works, is an early example from Kelly’s body of drawings representing the contours of leaves, plants, trees, fruits, and flowers, a practice begun around 1948 at his summertime retreat along the Atlantic coast of France. As Katherine Sachs writes in the catalogue for the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 2009 exhibition Cézanne and Beyond, which included this trio, Kelly had long admired Cézanne’s painting Chestnut Trees at the Jas de Bouffan (ca. 1885–86, Minneapolis Institute of Art), which he first encountered in Rockwell Kent’s book World-Famous Paintings. The canvas shows a line of dark tree trunks silhouetted against a scenic backdrop with a country wall, green hill, and Mont Saint Victoire in the distance. Kelly was particularly attracted to the way the trees form a screen that fractures the view and creates fascinating, geometric forms in between their trunks and branches. For Kelly, the negative space between shapes is often just as important, if not more so, than the shapes themselves. Here, the same trunk(s) of trees create delicately shifting, serpentine forms between and around them, producing readymade geometries of natural design, closely observed.

Three Trees (1), Ellsworth Kelly (American, Newburgh, New York 1923–2015 Spencertown, New York), Graphite on paper

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