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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.
In 1948 and 1949 Noland worked with Ossip Zadkine in Paris, and had his first exhibition of his paintings there. After returning to the U.S., he taught in Washington, D.C. at Catholic University (1951-1960) and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. In the early 1950s he 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.
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 referred to as targets, which, like the one reproduced here called Beginning from 1958, used unlikely color combinations. This also led Noland 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.
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.
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 (a.k.a. Lyn) and a son, William.
Stephanie Gordon, a psychologist, lived with Noland from November 1964 until June 1970. They married in April 1967 and divorced in 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.
^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.
^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.
^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.
^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 2010. 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.
^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.
Gowing, L (ed.) 1995, A Biographical Dictionary of Artists, Rev. edn, Andromeda Oxford Limited, Oxfordshire.
"Kenneth Noland." Contemporary Artists, 4th ed. St. James Press, 1996. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2005.
"Kenneth Noland: Color, Format and Abstract Art." Interview by Diane waldman (1977), in: Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, edited by K. Stiles and P. Selz, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996, pp. 94-98.
"Kenneth Noland." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed. 17 Vols. Gale Research, 1998. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale. 2005.