Spotlight on The Red Sun: Part II

Image of works by Ellsworth Kelly, Joan Miro, and Alexander Calder

(Left) Ellsworth Kelly, Red Relief, 2009. Oil on canvas, two joined panels, 80 x 62 1/2 x 2 5/8 in. Private collection. Photo: Jerry L. Thompson, courtesy the artist © Ellsworth Kelly (middle) Joan Miró, The Red Sun, 1948. Oil and gouache on canvas, 36 1/8 x 28 1/8 in. Acquired 1951. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. (right) Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1948. Painted sheet metal and wire, 26 x 26 x 5 1/2 in. Gift from the estate of Katherine S. Dreier, 1953. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Read Part I of this series 

It is always fun to hear the stories behind a work of art, giving an otherwise unknown perspective on the painting. Duncan Phillips wanted to show “art beyond ‘isms,’” and I found it interesting that while he was not keen on surrealism, he acquired Joan Miró’s The Red Sun (1948) on the grounds that it fit in with the rest of his collection. Our guide for this spotlight talk, Paul Ruther, pointed out this connectivity and discussed the painting’s similarities to other works currently on view nearby–the surrounding Ellsworth Kelly panels (use of similar, bright primary colors) and Alexander Calder mobiles (floating objects in space).

Miró’s whimsy was not only evident in his art, but also his personality. After visiting the United States and New York for the first time, he returned to Spain with an unusual souvenir—sidewalk toys, which he added to his personal toy collection. In fact, some of the toys’ faces are strikingly similar to the background face in this painting!

Hannah Hoffman, Marketing Intern

Ellsworth Kelly at 90

 Ellsworth Kelly, Green Blue Black Red, 2007. Oil on canvas, four panels, 345 x 217 in. Private collection. Photo: Jerry L. Thompson, courtesy the artist © Ellsworth Kelly

One of the seven multi-panel works by Ellsworth Kelly that will be on view at the Phillips June 22-Sept. 22, on the occasion of the artist’s 90th birthday year. Ellsworth Kelly, Green Blue Black Red, 2007. Oil on canvas, four panels, 345 x 217 in. Private collection. Photo: Jerry L. Thompson, courtesy the artist © Ellsworth Kelly

Today is Ellsworth Kelly’s 90th birthday! In just three weeks, we open Ellsworth Kelly: Panel Paintings: 2004-2009, joining a host of sister institutions in celebrating the milestone birthday year of this acclaimed artist. Early this month, Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation opened Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall. Just last week MoMA put on view the artist’s Chatham Series, reunited for the first time since 1972. A few days later a retrospective of Kelly’s prints opened at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Here in town the National Gallery of Art is showing a series of luminous handmade paper images that the artist made in 1977. Happy birthday Mr. Kelly!