Lot 68
  • 68

Ellsworth Kelly

200,000 - 300,000 USD
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  • Ellsworth Kelly
  • Study for Tiger
  • signed and dated 52; signed, numbered EK 52.84 and dated 1952 on the backing board
  • collage on paper
  • 32 1/4 x 34 1/4 in. 81.9 x 87 cm.
  • Executed in 1952.


Matthew Marks Gallery, New York (EK D 52.84)
PaineWebber Group Inc., New York (acquired from the above in 2001)
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Fort Worth, The Fort Worth Art Museum; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts; Toronto, Art Gallery of Ontario; Baltimore, The Baltimore Museum of Art; San Francisco, The San Francisco Museum of Art; Kansas City, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Ellsworth Kelly: Works on Paper, September 1987 - December 1988, cat. no. 45, illustrated in color
Beijing, National Museum of Fine Art, Moving Horizons: The UBS Art Collection, 1960s to the present day, September - November 2008, p. 61. illustrated in color


Michael Plante, "Things to Cover Walls - Ellsworth Kelly's Paris Paintings and the Tradition of Mural Decoration," American Art: National Museum of American Art and Smithsonian Institution, Spring 1995, p. 49, illustrated
UBS Financial Services, Inc, "Private Wealth Management - UBS Art Collection in Washington, D.C.," 2009, p. 3, illustrated in color
Washington D.C., UBS Private Wealth Management, "UBS Art Collection," 2011, illustrated in color (brochure)


This study is in very good condition overall. There are numerous tack holes in the corners from the time of execution. Various papers were used by Kelly in the construction of this study; the yellow and white papers are heavier stock than the black, red and orange which are thinner and were more prone to old scattered creases, losses and a few tears, all of which have been stabilized by a mounting to a 32 ¼ x 34 ¼ in. white paper backing. In the yellow sheet at upper right there is some pale staining along the upper edge. In the red section there are minor creases and tears. In the orange section there are very small losses to the edge. All three sections have minor repairs and fills which have been previously inpainted and are located primarily at the edges. In the lower right of the black area, there are scattered surface disturbances consistent with the thinness of the sheet, most noticeably a diagonal crease in the lower right and three horizontal creases in the lower portion. In the white section at lower left the following can be noted: a repaired 3 in. tear at the lower edge and a 3 x 1 in. area of tear and abrasion towards the center, 2 minor soft dents in the upper portion of the section, and a few tiny inclusions scattered throughout that appear as foxing but are not. These inclusions are stable in a proper environment but could be treated if desired with surface removal and infilling of the abraded surface. The white paper backing is hinged to a ragboard matte at four corners and upper and lower center with Japanese paper hinges. This work is framed in a white washed wood strip frame behind Plexiglas.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Ellsworth Kelly's chromatically graphic collage Study for Tiger chronicles the formal resolution of the powerfully monumental 1953 polyptych painting of the same title now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C.  Executed the previous year during a key developmental period in the progression of the artist's signature minimal abstraction, the present work underlines the central importance of collage as a site for recording visual information and an intuitive testing ground for the genesis and evolution of Kelly's ideas.  Noteworthy for its inclusion in the major 1987 exhibition Ellsworth Kelly: Works on Paper, this remarkably early and resolved work on paper epitomizes the very realization of Kelly's formative artistic maturity. Compositionally and chromatically identical to the eponymous painting – one of the last monumental works executed in Paris before Kelly's return to the United States in 1954 – Study for Tiger embodies the visual culmination of this seminal period of creative development.

During 1948-1953, Kelly spent a significant period of time in France developing his innovative artistic practice of rendering the stimulus of the visible world with a reductive clarity of form. Greatly inspired by structures of everyday existence, Kelly turned to architectural elements and edifices as his creative well-spring.  As the artist recalls, "everywhere I looked, everything I saw became something to be made, and it had to be exactly as it was, with nothing added. It was a new freedom: there was no longer the need to compose. The subject was already made and I could take from everything. It all belonged to me: a glass roof of a factory with its broken and patched panels, lines on a road map, a corner of a Braque painting, paper fragments in the street. It was all the same: anything goes." (Exh. Cat., Texas, The Fort Worth Museum and traveling, Ellsworth Kelly: Works on Paper, 1987, p. 10).

Indeed, not only did Kelly scrutinize architectural forms, but numerous artworks were consumed as imperative source material – most notable in the present work is the influence of Mattias Grünewald's Isenheim Altarpiece.  Directly related to Grünewald's iconic five-paneled work, the same number of rectilinear color fields in Tiger simultaneously bears structural and chromatic resemblance: the contrasting black, white, yellow, dark pink and orange of Tiger corresponds to the tonal variations of the Resurrection on Grünewald's right panel. Transforming such formal influences into schematic rectilinear and grid-like matrices, Kelly worked freely and experimentally, systematically removing any trace of the gestural notion of self-expression. Though superficially evoking the detached color theory of his mentor Paul Klee and the non-representational Neo-Plasticism of Piet Mondrian (an artist he greatly admired), Kelly's reductive abstractions are nonetheless rooted in a translation of real and experienced visual phenomenon. For the first time in this work Kelly utilizes the compositional interlocking of varyingly sized rectilinear planes; a departure and progression forward from the checkerboard grids that saturated this early and highly significant period of the artist's oeuvre.