Melanie Harwood, Senior Registrar
Ellsworth Kelly has called his plant drawings “a kind of bridge to a way of seeing that was the basis of the very first abstract paintings.” He is better known for the large abstract works to which he refers, such as the BMA’s Diagonal with Curve II (1978), or Untitled, the steel sculpture in the Levi Garden. They are large flat planes of canvas and metal with very defined edges. Kelly’s drawings of leaves, branches and flowers are not large, but they are comprised of white shapes whose contours are drawn in spare and elegant lines. The drawings are not abstractions of shapes in nature as each one is a very identifiable plant. Kelly has managed to convey shape, substance and even a sense of motion using little more than a thin outline. I’ve always loved sweet peas and find this drawing astonishing as it captures the delicacy and beauty of these flowers with absolutely no color or shading and only minimal line. He has reduced the plant to its intrinsic form and although detail is removed, the essence is there.
BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.