La Combe I
Not on view
Oil on canvas
Overall: 38 × 63 11/16in. (96.5 × 161.8 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of The American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President
Rights and reproductions
© Ellsworth Kelly
While staying with friends at the Villa La Combe in Meschers, France, in the summer of 1950, Ellsworth Kelly closely observed a flight of stairs and the complex shadows cast upon it by the balustrade. He photographed the stairs and made numerous sketches, recording the shadows throughout the day as the position of the sun changed. These photographs and sketches became the basis of a series of works titled La Combe. Here, the nine-part structure of the composition evokes the architecture of the stairs, specifically its nine steps. Kelly has turned the flight of stairs on its side and made each white “stair” section in La Combe I of equal width to eliminate any sense of mass and volume. The disjunctive arrangement of red lines both implies the shadows on the steps and stands as an autonomous abstract form―without the artist’s explanation, we could not identify the source of the image.