Ellsworth Kelly on Monet, painting and his chapel

The late, great US artist discusses his art, influences and his spiritual beliefs in these wonderful new videos
Ellsworth Kelly
Ellsworth Kelly

We were fortunate enough to speak with Ellsworth Kelly at his studio in upstate New York, shortly before he passed away in December 2015. We’ve already brought you the first of these video interviews, shot at this encounter, and now we would like to share the remaining footage.

In the second video, below, Kelly recalls perhaps his earliest artistic creation, undertaken when he was three years old: squashing down a pound of butter with his feet. “I stepped on it until it was flat,” he recalled. “I don’t like bulk, or three dimensions.”

Some parents might have been dismayed to see their doorstep dairy delivery treated in this way, but not Kelly’s. “My mother came out and said, ‘look what you’ve done! You’ve made art!’”


In the third installment, Ellsworth discusses how European art changed his outlook, during a six-year sojourn to the continent after World War II. “I think that Monet changed me,” he says. “His paintings moved me so much when I saw them for the first time.”

“And I’ve always loved Picasso,” he went on. “He’s the first person who grabbed me. When he made a painting, he showed artists how to make a painting.”


In the fourth and final video, he describes the spiritual side of art, and the inspiration behind his forthcoming ‘chapel’, soon to be built in the grounds of the University of Texas.

“Any good art is spiritual, when you think about it,” he argued. “Goya, Velasquez, Brancsci – if they’re really good then its spiritual.” 

This spirituality doesn’t simply equate to a religious inclination, as the artist explained when talking about the chapel-like space, although he did reference the Chartres Cathedral when describing this numinous exhibition space, which he originally developed for a private collector in 1986.


Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015 (model; interior view) © 2015 Ellsworth Kelly. Image courtesy the Blanton Museum of Art
Ellsworth Kelly, Austin, 2015 (model; interior view) © 2015 Ellsworth Kelly. Image courtesy the Blanton Museum of Art

“It’s about reaching something,” he explained. “This is just a strange munch of things, and they give me great joy because I’ve figured out somehow that it does something to me.”


Thankfully, Kelly was able to share his discoveries with us all. Watch the footage, above, and  for more on this important US artist buy a copy of our authoritative new monograph here.



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