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Leon Kelly

American, 1901–1982

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Leon Kelly

American, 1901–1982

186
Followers
Biography

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.

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Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
Group
Group show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Institution
Collected by a major institution
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Fair
Included in a major biennial
Whitney Biennial
Biography

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.

Career Highlights
Learn more about artist insights.
Group
Group show at a major institution
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Institution
Collected by a major institution
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
Fair
Included in a major biennial
Whitney Biennial