Ellsworth Kelly
Spectrum I, 1953

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Spectrum I
Artist name
Ellsworth Kelly
Date created
oil on canvas
60 1/4 in. × 60 1/4 in. (153.04 cm × 153.04 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
On view on floor 4 as part of Freeform: Experiencing Abstraction

Unlike a rainbow or a prismatic spectrum of colors, Kelly’s Spectrum I begins and ends with the same shade of yellow, a decision that reflects his interests in the sensory effects of color juxtapositions. The intervening sweep from green to golden orange makes it difficult to tell that the two yellows are, in fact, the same. Although Kelly always created his own subtle blends, spectral colors—the twelve primary, secondary, and tertiary hues of the color wheel—became central to his palette in the early 1950s. He made eight Spectrum paintings between 1953 and 2014, ranging from this easel-size work—the first in the series—to a monumental installation nearly fifty feet long.

Other Works by Ellsworth Kelly

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