Gerald Festus Kelly 1879-1972

Sir Gerald Kelly RHA, PRA, HRSA was one of the 20th Century's leading British artists. He began his career without any formal art training, but, exhibiting the indefatigable determination that became a hallmark of his character, he moved for Paris in 1901 in his quest to become a painter. There he made friends with the greats such as Singer Sargent and Sickert, and spent a number of years studying both Old Masters and the Impressionists, such as Monet, Renoir and Degas, whom he all met. Another friend was the novelist Somerset Maugham, who used Kelly as a basis for characters in several of his novels.

Kelly's first artistic breakthrough came when the great contemporary collector Sir Hugh Lane purchased two of his paintings in 1908. Soon afterwards, Kelly joined or was elected to the necessary artistic institutions; Royal Hibernian Academy in 1908, the National Portrait Society in 1910, and the Royal Academy in 1930. By the outbreak of World War One, Kelly was an established portraitist, and continued to attract significant sitters throughout his career. Over the course of his career he painted; T.S. Eliot, Henry Frick, Harold MacMillan, Vaughan Williams, and, between 1939 and 1945, the Coronation Portraits of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. He was elected President of the Royal Academy in 1949.

He was Born 9 April 1879 in London and educated at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. He studied and continued to live for some years in Paris, and was influenced by Whistler. He visited Burma, Spain, South Africa and America. Exhibited at the Salon d'Automne, Paris (Societaire 1904), at the R.A. from 1909, and at the Grafton Galleries, Grosvenor Gallery and International Society. He was a Founder-member of the Modern Portrait Painters Society 1907, and of the National Portrait Society 1910.

Kelly was elected A.R.A. in 1922, R.A. in 1930; Keeper of the R.A. in 1943-5; member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission 1938-43; P.R.A. 1949-54. and was Knighted in 1945. He had retrospective exhibitions at the Leicester Galleries 1950 and the R.A. Diploma Gallery 1957.

Sir Gerald Kelly is most noted for his series of paintings of Burmese girls including the portrait of Saw Ohn Nyum VI , Burmese Silk and Burmese Pearl.