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.