“Ellen’s art truly captures the spirit of adventure, skill, mystery and experimentation that drove art forward from the mid-20th century-on. She was among the artists who gave strength and significance to our culture in the Pikes Peak region. I was privileged to include her art in the FAC’s 2009 exhibition Colorado Springs Abstract, and I enjoyed her seriousness as an artist and her amazing sense of humor as we planned for her upcoming show. I will deeply miss working with Ellen.”
–FAC Museum Director and Chief Curator Blake Milteer
When she first came to Colorado Springs, Ellen O’Brien (1922–2013) brought with her the precise drawing skills, creative experience, and independence she was afforded at Cornell University and Detroit’s Cranbrook Academy of Art. After a short stay here, O’Brien moved to Paris to work in the studio of painter Fernand Léger, who following Pablo Picasso, had helped develop the visual language of Cubism.
After her return to Colorado Springs in 1951, O’Brien taught at the Fine Arts Center School, where she made a series of lithographs with master printmaker Lawrence Barrett, adding to her advanced skills in drawing and painting. Around this time, O’Brien was among the a small number of Colorado artists to adopt abstraction — a form that was redefining the art world. In her abstract paintings, she continued to create elegant and powerful images through dynamic compositions of undulating and intersecting lines surrounded by strong color. This exhibition celebrates the consistent development of line from O’Brien’s early figure studies to her later abstract paintings.