Sir Gerald Festus Kelly (1879 - 1972)

Still Life with Anenomes, circa 1930


SKU: 11671
Oil on canvas

Height – 70cm
Width – 52cm

1 in stock


The artist’s studio sale; Christie’s, London, 8 February, 1980, lot 228.
Kelly painted still lifes only rarely and mostly for his own pleasure. He was brilliantly adept at this: in this virtuoso performance Kelly has built the composition from the bottom up, first painting the green foreground, which acts as a foil for three weightless fallen petals. The background, in this case unfinished, to dramatic effect, would have been painted in last.

John Napper, Kelly’s studio assistant, recalled: ‘His slow painstaking methods made sure that there was always work in hand in the studio: portraits, landscapes, Burmese dancers, still-lives, started sometimes many years previously, would be got out, washed down, worked on, put away, and so on.’ Napper also bemoaned the fact that Kelly was obsessive about never using the same brush twice without it being cleaned, so that his colours remained jewel-like. This resulted in Napper having to clean as many as 200 brushes a day.

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Sir Gerald Festus Kelly
Sir Gerald Festus
1879 - 1972

Painter in oil of portraits and landscapes. Born in London, he was educated at Cambridge University, later living and studying art in Paris. Whistler was an early influence. Kelly was an enthusiastic traveler, visiting among other countries Spain, America, South Africa and Burma, where he painted some of his most characteristic and charming figure studies. He became known as a sound academic painter of attractive children and elegant women. His sitters included Somerset Maugham, whom he painted several times, and he undertook numerous state portraits. Kelly is represented in many public collections, including the Tate Gallery, which holds seven works. He had retrospective exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries in 1950 and in 1957 at the RA. He was elected RA in 1930, was the Academy’s keeper 1943-45 and President, 1949-54. Kelly held a number of official positions, such as his membership of the Royal Fine Arts Commission, 1938-43, and was knighted in 1945. Between 1909 and 1970 Kelly exhibited over 300 works at the RA. During his lifetime his work became well known through popular prints. Since his death however – and in spite of his technical brilliance and colourful, wide-ranging subject matter – his reputation has stagnated.

The artist John Napper worked as his assistant.


Sir Gerald Festus Kelly (1879 - 1972)
Still Life with Anenomes, circa 1930
Sir Gerald Festus Kelly (1879 - 1972)
The Oval, circa 1905
Sir Gerald Festus Kelly (1879 - 1972)
Palace Mandalay, 1909
Sir Gerald Festus Kelly (1879 - 1972)
Ma Si Gyaw, pose III, circa 1909