The Wall Street Journal has a nice story on the release of the first volume of Ellsworth Kelly’s catalogue raisonné which the artist is helping to put together to explain better his early influences and experiences. The first volume ends when the artist returned from France to the United States several years after the end of World War II:
Tracking down an artist’s early output can be challenging. People move around andmemories fade, making it hard to locate work that was bartered or given away decadesago.
Not so in the case of Mr. Kelly. A natural archivist, “he keeps everything,” said Mr. Bois.
Just two works from the artist’s time in France have been lost; both are included in the catalog. While Mr. Kelly gave a handful away to friends, most of his paintings and reliefs from that period were still in his possession by 1992, when a major exhibition of his early work in France was mounted.
“It’s quite extraordinary,” Mr. Bois said. “There are certain [later] works where we don’t know where they are, but not from that period.”
The Journal goes deeper on what the catalogue raisonné hopes to accomplish:
The catalogue raisonné is one way for Mr. Kelly, along with the author and art historian Yve-Alain Bois, to correct the art-historical record on the artist’s influences and methods—such as the role chance played in the creation of his works and his use of modular grids and monochrome panels.
“It’s taken me a long time to get so that people understand what I did in Paris,” Mr. Kelly said. “Nothing sold [then], and a lot of those paintings are in museums today.”
Among them: “Colors for a Large Wall,” an 8-foot by 8-foot painting that resembles a brightly hued crossword-puzzle grid. Mr. Kelly created the work in 1951 in Sanary, a small Mediterranean town where he lived for about six months. It is now on display at the Museum of Modern Art. The painting is based on a collage made from squares of colored paper left over from a previous series, in which Mr. Kelly arranged numbered slips
on a grid by chance. He used the leftover 36 pieces to create the study for “Colors for a Large Wall.” For the final piece, he painted 64 separate panels in various colors and arranged them in the same sequence as the collage.