Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015)
Oil on canvas, two parts
Overall: 80 1/8 × 115 5/16 in. (203.5 × 292.9 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase
Rights and Reproductions Information
© Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly’s massively scaled geometric abstractions are often grounded in something actually seen. Atlantic derives its abstracted curves from shadows cast across the pages of a book that Ellsworth Kelly was reading while riding a bus. The facing pages of the book and its central fold are mirrored in the painting’s diptych structure, while the shadows themselves are reversed in his black-and-white scheme (so that the shadow actually appears as white, on a black ground). Kelly first translated the shadow, curved by the bowing of the book, into a group of drawings in 1954, then into a smaller painting, Study for Atlantic (1956), and finally into the grand scale of Atlantic—more than 9 feet wide. Atlantic is also the largest of Kelly’s black-and-white canvases of the late 1950s, made just before he reintroduced a wide spectrum of colors into his work.