Kenneth Clifton Noland

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Kenneth Clifton Noland

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Henry Casewell Noland, Sr. and Bessie D. Belkin
Ex-husband of Cornelia Langer
Father of <private> Noland

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Immediate Family

About Kenneth Clifton Noland

Kenneth Noland (April 10, 1924 – January 5, 2010) was an American abstract 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 he was thought of as a minimalist painter. Noland helped establish the Washington Color School movement. In 1977 he was honored by a major retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in New York that then traveled to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. and the Toledo Museum of Art, in Ohio in 1978. In 2006 Noland's Stripe Paintings were exhibited at the Tate in London.

Early life and education

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.

Noland enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1942 after completing high school. A veteran of World War II Noland took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study art at Black Mountain College in his home state of North Carolina. He attended the experimental Black Mountain College (two of his brothers studied art there as well) and studied with Ilya Bolotowsky, a professor who introduced him to Neo-plasticism and the work of Piet Mondrian. There Noland also studied Bauhaus theory and color under Josef Albers and he became interested in Paul Klee, specifically his sensitivity to color.


In 1948 and 1949 Noland worked with Ossip Zadkine in Paris, and had his first exhibition of his paintings there. In the early 1950s he met Morris Louis in Washington DC 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.

Most of Noland's paintings fall into one of four groups: circles, or targets (see Beginning illustrated), chevrons, (see infobox), 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 bull’s-eyes, or as they were known - Targets - like the one reproduced here called Beginning from 1958, using unlikely color combinations. This also led him away from Morris Louis in 1958. In 1964 he was included in the exhibition Post-Painterly Abstraction curated by Clement Greenberg which traveled the country and helped to firmly establish Color Field painting as an important new movement in the 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. In 1964 Noland occupied half the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 1965 his work was exhibited at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art and the Jewish Museum (New York). In 1949 he had his first solo exhibition: Kenneth Noland, at the Galerie Creuze, in Paris. In 1957 he had the first solo exhibition of his paintings in New York at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery and he had the final solo exhibition of his lifetime - Kenneth Noland Shaped Paintings 1981-82, which opened Oct 29 2009 at the Leslie Feely Fine Art Gallery on E.68th St. in New York City and was scheduled to close January 9, 2010, though, the closing date was later extended to January 16.

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.

Personal life

He was married to:

Cornelia Langer, a daughter of a Republican U. S. senator from North Dakota, William Langer. The couple married in 1950 and later divorced. They had three children: daughters Cady and Lyndon (aka Lyn) and a son, William.

Stephanie Gordon, a psychologist, lived with Noland from November 1964 until June 1970. They married April 1967 and divorced June 1970.

Peggy L. Schiffer, an art historian and daughter of Dr. Morton A. Schiffer. Married circa 1970, the Nolands had one son, Samuel Jesse.

Paige Rense, editor in chief of Architectural Digest, whom he married in Bennington, Vermont, on 10 April 1994. Noland was her fifth husband; her previous spouses included Arthur F. Rense.

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


Noland died on January 5, 2010, of kidney cancer in his home in Port Clyde, Maine. He was 85 when he died.

Selected museum collections

Selected works

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Kenneth Clifton Noland's Timeline

April 10, 1924
January 5, 2010
Age 85