Kenneth Noland 1924–2010

Kenneth Noland is regarded as a leading voice in postwar abstraction and is celebrated for his painterly minimalism and pure, exuberant use of color. Noland was born in Asheville, North Carolina in 1924. He described his father, a physician, as a “Sunday painter,” exposing young Noland to painting early in his life. After leaving the Air Force, Noland began his formal art studies at the famed Black Mountain College in 1946, located just twenty miles from where he was born. Under the tutelage of artists such as Willem de Kooning, John Cage, Ilya Bolotowsky and Josef Albers, Noland began creating work with the new avant-garde ideals he was being exposed to. Noland cites Paul Klee, Henri Matisse and Piet Mondrian as early influences, though he would eventually reject the hard-edge geometric ideals of Mondrian. Albers’ theories regarding the interaction of color would form the most lasting influence on Noland’s work.

Noland briefly studied in Paris in 1948 and returned to the United States to teach at various schools in Washington, D.C. While there, Noland developed a close friendship with artist Morris Louis, who, like Noland, was creating paintings outside of the prevailing Abstract Expressionist style. In 1952, along with critic Clement Greenberg, the two visited Helen Frankenthaler’s studio in New York and both were enthralled by Frankenthaler’s technique and use of color. Noland cites this meeting as pivotal to the development of his mature style.

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