June 5th marked the opening of Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a summer-long show of approximately 80 drawings. With some work from as early as 1948, the impressive scope of the exhibition lies in the fact that it represents a lifetime of Kelly’s studies of plants.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, the prominent abstract painter offered some real insight into his mindset when drawing plants, saying, “It’s the only figurative part of my life. I’ve given up figurative painting. I’m not interested in figurative painting at all. The drawing is like playing the piano or something. It’s my pastime. It’s my connection with nature. And I like that leaves are planar. They’re not thick. They’re like … shapes and I’m attracted to shapes, shape and color, or I call it, form and color.“
And of course, the artist is never content with his work. He comments, “When I finish, when I compare it to what I looked at, it’s never as good. Nature wins.” Nature might win, but Kelly’s crisp botanical drawings are a close second.