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Kenneth Noland

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Kenneth Noland
Born(1924-04-10)April 10, 1924
DiedJanuary 5, 2010(2010-01-05) (aged 85)
EducationBlack Mountain College
Known forAbstract art
Movementcolor field painting
WebsiteOfficial site

Kenneth Noland (April 10, 1924 – January 5, 2010) was an American painter. He was one of the best-known American color field painters, although in the 1950s he was thought of as an abstract expressionist and in the early 1960s as a minimalist painter. Noland helped establish the Washington Color School movement. In 1977, he was honored with a major retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York that then traveled to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and Ohio's Toledo Museum of Art in 1978. In 2006, Noland's Stripe Paintings were exhibited at the Tate in London.

Early life and education[edit]

A son of Harry Caswell Noland (1896–1975), a pathologist, and his wife, Bessie (1897–1980), Kenneth Clifton Noland was born in Asheville, North Carolina. He had four siblings: David, Bill, Neil, and Harry Jr.[1][2]

Noland enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1942 after completing high school. As a veteran of World War II, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study art at Black Mountain College in his home state of North Carolina.[3] At Black Mountain, where two of his brothers also studied art, Noland studied with Ilya Bolotowsky, a professor who introduced him to neoplasticism and the work of Piet Mondrian. Noland also studied Bauhaus theory and color there under Josef Albers[4] and became interested in Paul Klee—specifically Klee's sensitivity to color.[5]


Beginning (1958) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

In 1948 and 1949 Noland worked with Ossip Zadkine in Paris, and had his first exhibition of his paintings there in 1949. After returning to the U.S., he taught in Washington, D.C., at Catholic University (1951–1960) and the Institute of Contemporary Arts.[6]

In the early 1950s, Noland met Morris Louis in D.C. while teaching night classes at the Washington Workshop Center for the Arts. He became friends with Louis, and after being introduced by Clement Greenberg to Helen Frankenthaler and seeing her new paintings at her studio in New York City in 1953, he and Louis adopted her "soak-stain" technique of allowing thinned paint to soak into unprimed canvases.[7]

The Clown (1959) at the National Gallery of Art in 2022

Most of Noland's paintings fall into one of four groups: circles (or targets), chevrons, stripes, and shaped canvases. His preoccupation with the relationship of the image to the containing edge of the picture led him to a series of studies of concentric rings or bullseyes, commonly called targets, which, like the one reproduced here—Beginning (1958)—used unlikely color combinations. This also led Noland away from Louis in 1958.

In 1964, he was included in the exhibition Post-Painterly Abstraction curated by Clement Greenberg,[8] which traveled the country and helped to firmly establish color field painting as an important new movement in contemporary art of the 1960s. Noland pioneered the shaped canvas, initially with a series of symmetrical and asymmetrical diamonds or chevrons. In these paintings, the edges of the canvas become as structurally important as the center.

During the 1970s and 1980s his shaped canvases were highly irregular and asymmetrical. These resulted in increasingly complex structures of highly sophisticated and controlled color and surface integrity.


Instead of painting the canvas with a brush, Noland's style was to stain the canvas with color. This idea sought to remove the artist through brushstrokes. This made the piece about the art, not the artist. He emphasized spatial relationships in his work by leaving unstained, bare canvas as a contrast against the colors used throughout his paintings. Noland used simplified abstraction so the design would not detract from the use of color.[9]

Noland's students included the sculptor Jennie Lea Knight[10] and painter Alice Mavrogordato.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Noland was married to:[12]

  • Cornelia Langer, a daughter of the U.S. senator from North Dakota William Langer. They married in 1950 and later divorced. They had three children: daughters Cady and Lyndon (a.k.a. Lyn) and a son, William.[13][14]
  • Stephanie Gordon, a psychologist, lived with Noland from November 1964 until June 1970. They married in April 1967 and divorced in June 1970.[15]
  • Peggy L. Schiffer, an art historian. They married circa 1970, and had a son, Samuel Jesse.[16][17][18][19]
  • Paige Rense, editor in chief of Architectural Digest, whom he married in Bennington, Vermont, on April 10, 1994.[20][21] Noland was her fourth husband; her previous spouses included Arthur F. Rense.

Noland had an affair in the 1960s with artist and socialite Mary Pinchot Meyer.[22]


Noland died of kidney cancer at his home in Port Clyde, Maine, on January 5, 2010, at the age of 85.[23]


Noland had his first solo exhibition at Galerie Raymond Creuze in Paris in 1948. In 1957, he had his first New York solo exhibition at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery.[24] In 1964, Noland occupied half the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale.[25] In 1965, his work was exhibited at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum (New York). Noland's final solo exhibition, Kenneth Noland Shaped Paintings 1981–82, opened on October 29, 2009, at the Leslie Feely Fine Art Gallery on East 68th Street in New York City and was scheduled to close on January 9, 2010 (though the closing date was later extended to January 16).[26] In 2010, Noland was honored with a solo presentation of his work at the Guggenheim Museum, entitled Kenneth Noland, 1924–2010: A Tribute.[25] In addition, his work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at a range of international institutions, including the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City (1983); Museo de Bellas Artes de Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain (1985); Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2004); Tate, Liverpool (2006); and Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio (1986 and 2007).


In 1984, US menswear designer Alexander Julian incorporated Noland's designs and coloring in his knitwear.[27]

Selected museum collections[edit]

Selected works[edit]

  • (1958) Ex-Nihilio
  • (1958) Lunar Episode
  • (1958) Beginning
  • (1958) Inside
  • (1958) Heat
  • (1959) And Half
  • (1959) Split
  • (1959) Extent
  • (1960) Back and Front
  • (1960) Earthen Bound
  • (1960) Play
  • (1961) Highlights
  • (1961) Epigram
  • (1961) Turnsole
  • (1963) Ringing Bell
  • (1963) Drifting
  • (1963) Thrust
  • (1963) East-West
  • (1963) New Light
  • (1963) Cadmium Radiance
  • (1964) Baba Yagga
  • (1964) Halfway
  • (1964) And Again
  • (1964) Tropical Zone
  • (1964) Trans West
  • (1965) Stack
  • (1966) Galore
  • (1966) Sound
  • (1967) Summer Plain
  • (1967) Stria
  • (1967) Open End
  • (1968) Transvaries
  • (1969) Pan
  • (1973) Interlocking Color
  • (1973) Under Color
  • (1975) Burnt Beige
  • (1978) Oasis
  • (1978) Tune
  • (1985) Snow and Ice
  • (1989) Doors: Time Ahead
  • (1999) Refresh
  • (2000) Mysteries: Infanta
  • (2000) Mysteries: Afloat


  1. ^ Parents' names and siblings from ancestry.com, found in 1930 North Carolina federal census as well as the North Carolina birth register listing of Noland's birth. Records accessed on 7 January 2010.
  2. ^ Noland's younger brother Neil (born 1927) became a sculptor, and like his brother Kenneth, he studied art at Black Mountain College, as did Noland's brother Harry.
  3. ^ Obituaries state Noland was drafted in 1942 and served until 1946. An official enlistment record, however, states Noland, then 20, joined the Army Air Corps Reserves as a private at Keesler Field in Biloxi, Mississippi, on 24 May 1944. The record was accessed on ancestry.com on 7 January 2010.
  4. ^ "Painting: Bold Emblems". TIME.com. 18 April 1969. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012.
  5. ^ Grimes, William (January 23, 2010). "Kenneth Noland April 10, 1924 - Jan. 5, 2010 Abstract Painter Favored Brightly Colored Shapes". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittlsburgh, Pennsylvania. p. B.3.
  6. ^ NYT obituary, January 6, 2010
  7. ^ Terry Fenton, online essay about Kenneth Noland, and acrylic paint, [1] accessed April 30th, 2007
  8. ^ "Clement Greenberg". Post-Painterly Abstraction. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2023-01-28. Retrieved 2012-05-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Jennie Lea Knight". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  11. ^ Korotin, Ilse (2016-05-19). "Blum Mavrogordato, Alice". biografiA: Lexikon österreichischer Frauen [biografiA: Lexicon of Austrian Women] (in German). Böhlau Verlag Wien. pp. 354–355. ISBN 978-3-205-79590-2.
  12. ^ Writer, artist, and arts administrator Michael Fallon has claimed that his maternal grandmother, Billie Ruth Sinclair (7 July 1925 - 2008), was Noland's first wife and that their brief marriage took place in Asheville, North Carolina in the mid-1940s. He wrote about the marriage in a 2007 essay on the website of Minnesota Artists (mnartists.org), a joint project of the Walker Arts Center and the McKnight Foundation. https://web.archive.org/web/20110928142453/http://www.mnartists.org/article.do?rid=13691. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved January 7, 2010. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help) A search on ancestry.com on 7 January 2010 revealed Kenneth C. Noland's Army Air Corps enlistment record, dated 24 May 1944, at Keesler Field, Biloxi, Mississippi, in which Pvt. Noland declares his marital status as "married", though the name of his wife is not listed.
  13. ^ Noland's children have followed in their father's artistic footsteps. Cady Noland (born 1956) is an installation artist and Conceptual sculptor, Lyn Noland is a sculptor and Emmy award-winning camerawoman, and William Langer Noland is a photographer and sculptor and serves as an associate professor of the visual arts at Duke University.
  14. ^ Current Biography Yearbook 1972, page 330
  15. ^ World Artists, 1950-1980 (H. W. Wilson, 1980), page 626
  16. ^ Matt Schudel, "Kenneth Noland, 85: Abstract Painter, a founder of Washington Color School", The Washington Post, 7 January 2010
  17. ^ "Kenneth Noland, 85; abstract painter, a founder of Washington Color School". The Washington Post.
  18. ^ "Painting: Bold Emblems", Time, 18 April 1969
  19. ^ "Painting: Bold Emblems". TIME.com. 18 April 1969. Archived from the original on December 14, 2008.
  20. ^ "Finding Sleaze Amid the Chintz". The New York Times. 13 March 1997.
  21. ^ Date and place of marriage established through ancestry.com and viewing of the Vermont Marriage Index, 1989-2001.
  22. ^ Sally Bedell Smith, Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House (Random House, 2005), page 234
  23. ^ Smith, Roberta (January 5, 2010). "Kenneth Noland, Color Field Artist, Is Dead at 85". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2010.
  24. ^ Terry Fenton, online about Kenneth Noland, [2] accessed January 6th, 2010
  25. ^ a b Kenneth Noland Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
  26. ^ "Leslie Feely".
  27. ^ Sustendal, Diane (1984-10-07). "Men's Style: Patterned Sweaters". The New York Times: 105. Retrieved 2022-04-04. Alexander Julian, long an admirer of Kenneth Noland's work, interpreted the artist's graphic linear patterns into more than one of his sweaters.
  28. ^ "Artist Info". National Gallery of Art. Retrieved June 9, 2021.


  • Gowing, L (ed.) 1995, A Biographical Dictionary of Artists, Rev. edn, Andromeda Oxford Limited, Oxfordshire.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]