Ellsworth Kelly (American, 1923-2015)
Lemon Branch 
Inscribed with artist's name in pencil, dated Oct 1964, titled 'Lemon Branch' and numbered from the series '4/5' verso. Pencil on wove paper.
28 1/2 x 22 9/16 in. (72.4 x 57.3cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York.
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Oldenburg, New York, New York (gifted directly from the above on the occasion of Richard's retirement as the Museum's Director in 1994).
"The Drawing Society National Exhibition," American Federation of Arts, New York, November 22 - December 13, 1966; also traveled to: Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, Michigan, October 1 - 22, 1965 / November 5 - 26, 1965; Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, December 10 - 31, 1965; Atlanta Art Association, Atlanta, Georgia, January 14 - February 4, 1966; University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, February 18 - March 11, 1966; Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado, March 25 - April 14, 1966; Frederick & Nelson, Seattle, Washington; April 22 - May 7, 1966; Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California, June 5 - 26, 1966; Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii, July 8 - 29, 1966; M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, California, August 12 - September 2, 1966; National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., September 16 - November 12, 1966, no. 32, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue p. 26.
"New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940-1970," The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, October 18, 1969 - February 8, 1970, no. 200, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue p. 51.
"Twentieth-Century American Drawings: Three Avant-Garde Generations," Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, January 23 - March 22, 1976; also traveled to: Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden, German, May 26 - July 11, 1976; Kunsthalle Bremen, Bremen, Germany, July 18 - August 29, 1976 (shown only in Baden-Baden).
"10 Painters & Sculptors Draw," Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, August 1 - September 30, 1984, checklist no. 24, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue p. 5.
"Ellsworth Kelly: Works on Paper," Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, September 13 - October 25, 1987; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, December 2, 1987 - January 31, 1988; The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, March 5 - May 15, 1988; Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland, May 29 - July 24, 1988; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, California, August 11 - September 25, 1988; Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City,Missouri, October 22 - December 31, 1988; Museum Overholland, Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 1 - September 24, 1989, pl. 138, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue.
"Die Hand des Kunstlers," Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany, April 26 - June 23, 1991, no. 5, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue.
Ellsworth Kelly spoke often of his drawing teacher Ture Bengtz at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston who instructed, "when I teach you how to see, then you'll be able to draw easily."(1) After more than a year of drawing from the nude, Kelly suddenly felt one day that he was able to draw anything. This was a seminal moment. As he stated in 2011, "When I see a blank piece of paper or canvas, I want to put something on it, it's a great desire."(2) Drawing became a venue for formulating and developing his large color field canvases, particularly for exploring the curves, contours and negative spaces between forms. On the occasion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings exhibition in 2012, the artist explained that these works "seem to be a bridge to the way of seeing that brought about the paintings in 1949 that are the basis for all my later work."(3)
Born in Newburgh, New York in 1923, Kelly studied at the Pratt Institute before joining the Army in 1943, working with other artists creating camouflage during the Second World War. After the war, he returned to Paris on the G.I. Bill where he began his artistic career in earnest. This crucial period from 1948-52 saw Kelly formulating what would become his lifelong project, freeing the canvas from gesture and representation to "shift the visual reality of painting to include the space around it."(4) Often called "Color Field," "Hard Edge" or "Minimalist," Kelly's mature work completely removed the process- and time-based elements of Abstract Expressionism, in favor of a finished style that was carefully planned out ahead of time.
While Kelly's paintings at first glance seem to be devoid of reference to the observed world, the artist always maintained that his work was rooted in his lived reality. The crushed coffee cup on the sidewalk, shadows between buildings, or leaves and flowers collected on morning walks could all provide foundational ideas. Studying plants, for example, gave him a crucial place for experimenting with negative space and how forms overlap, both powerful elements in understanding his oeuvre. As such, a drawing like Lemon Branch serves as a strong underpinning of Kelly's painted works, as well as a beautiful study of nature in its own right. Its lyrical forms dance up and down the page, some overlapping, others just barely out of reach, full of a life and energy and on a scale that creates a powerful, yet delicate, composition.
This work relates to Lemon Branch  in the collection of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York.
1: The Artist as quoted in: Marla Prather, "Interview with Ellsworth Kelly, May 15, 2011, Spencertown, New York," Ellsworth Kelly: Plant Drawings 1948-2010, exh. cat., Munich: Schirmer/Mosel, 2011, p. 211.
2: Ibid, p. 211.
3. The Artist as quoted in: Ellsworth Kelly: Plant Drawings, exh. cat., New York: Matthew Marks Gallery, 2017.
4. The Artist as quoted in: Jonathan Fineberg, Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1995.
Sold for $181,250 (buyer's premium included)