Leon Kelly
American, 1901-1982
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Collected by a major museum
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Selected exhibitions
2017
Dolan/Maxwell at Art on Paper New York 2017,
Dolan/Maxwell
2016
CHANCE MEETING ON A DISSECTING TABLE,
Weinstein Gallery
2014
Leon Kelly: Draftsman Extraordinaire,
Francis M. Naumann Fine Art

Eluding stylistic classification and name recognition, Leon Kelly nonetheless counts among the great Surrealists. His abstract-leaning mystical paintings of anthropomorphic insect- and bird-like creatures are often considered alongside the works of Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, and Yves Tanguy, who inspired him; the precisely rendered Ornithological Carnivale (1947) is a painting from the pinnacle of his practice. Critics have sometimes called Kelly’s spiky forms “difficult to embrace” with their harsh colors and dark, foreboding pictorial lighting, and struggled to classify his style for its incredibly broad range of influences: Post-Impressionism, Cubism, classical painting, Mannerism, Peruvian textiles, Native American pottery, and of course, Surrealism. Recent exhibitions—the first in decades—have renewed interest in the enigmatic painter.