fbpx Skip to content
Ellsworth Kelly
Cité, 1951

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Artist name
Ellsworth Kelly
Date created
oil on wood
twenty joined panels, overall: 56 1/2 in. × 70 3/4 in. × 1 3/4 in. (143.51 cm × 179.71 cm × 4.45 cm)
Date acquired
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and promised gift of Helen and Charles Schwab
© Ellsworth Kelly
Permanent URL
Artwork status
Not on view at this time.

Artist Ellsworth Kelly recalls his first encounter with abstraction and reflects on how his decades-long fascination with line, form, and color has manifested in both his paintings and his creative process. This video was filmed shortly before his passing in 2015.

More on the history of abstraction: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96hl5J47c3k

Audio Stories

The artist on the dream that inspired this painting

Show TranscriptHide Transcript


SFX: Music that signals we are entering a dreamspace. Echoey, melodic.  

SFX: Warm laughter and conversation, glasses clinking burbles up under his memories. 


KELLY: The night that I dreamt about this, I had gone to visit with two friends of mine, who lived in the Cité Universitaire. We talked and drank and we realized it was after one o’clock and the subways had closed. And my place was halfway across Paris. So they said, “Oh, we have another bed here. Why don’t you stay over?” 


SFX: Quiet undulating chords that suggest an altered state. We are going into a dreamspace. His voice in this section will be slower and more resonant — the sound of someone speaking in a dream. 


KELLY: So that night, I had this dream where I was on a scaffolding and I had children helping me.  


SFX: Echoey, distant, distorted, dreamy. The scrape of a ladder against a wall, children’s voices, laughter, then the swish of a brush. 


KELLY: And we had these big brushes, and painting these big bands on a wall.  


SFX: The dreamy chords fade out, we hear the chirp of birds. Then the sounds of a café, the murmur of voices, and the clink of a spoon in a coffee cup. This is a memory, not a dream. 


KELLY: In the morning, I remembered the dream, when I was having coffee. And I said, “Oh, I can’t forget this. I want to grab this image that I had in the dream.”  


SARAH ROBERTS: The mural in the dream was kind of these broken stripes, black and white, a little bit zebra-like. And he didn’t have the means or the place to go out and execute a mural, so he had to come up with this process of making a drawing and cutting it into squares and rearranging them in order to get the broken rhythm that he was looking for.  

Read MoreCollapse



Other Works by Ellsworth Kelly

See other works by Ellsworth Kelly

Please note that artwork locations are subject to change, and not all works are on view at all times. If you are planning a visit to SFMOMA to see a specific work of art, we suggest you contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to confirm it will be on view.

Only a portion of SFMOMA's collection is currently online, and the information presented here is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify collection holdings and artwork information. If you are interested in receiving a high resolution image of an artwork for educational, scholarly, or publication purposes, please contact us at copyright@sfmoma.org.

This resource is for educational use and its contents may not be reproduced without permission. Please review our Terms of Use for more information.