Ellsworth Kelly
Red White, 1962

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Red White
Artist name
Ellsworth Kelly
Date created
oil on canvas
80 1/8 in. × 90 1/4 in. (203.52 cm × 229.24 cm)
Date acquired
Collection SFMOMA
T. B. Walker Foundation Fund purchase
© Ellsworth Kelly
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Audio Stories

What shapes do you see in this painting?

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NARRATOR: An abstract field of intense red is surrounded by brilliant white in this 1962 painting by Ellsworth Kelly. Notice how the combination generates a striking visual sensation. Simply titled Red White, the painting deals with the artist’s defining interests in purity, balance, and, of course, color. 


GARRELS: The essence of color is very fundamental for Kelly. Particularly the primaries: red, blue, and yellow.  


NARRATOR: Gary Garrels, curator at the museum. 


GARRELS: Colors are always a product of light, and here he’s taking color and giving it a true material presence in the world. In a way, I think Kelly’s work is probably the purest presentation of color of any painter. Kelly was in the army and was assigned to paint camouflage. He learned a lot about color and shape and pattern from his work in the army, about negative space versus positive space, about outline and tonal relationships.  


Kelly’s work is very rooted in looking at the real world and then trying to determine the most essential vision. But they’re not abstract in the sense that they’re created completely out of his imagination. They’re not created out of an intellectual system. They’re really created out of a very keen sense of observation, and then distilling that through study in the studio. 

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Other Works by Ellsworth Kelly

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