Sir Gerald Festus Kelly, P.R.A. (British 1879-1972)

The Great Wall of China


Oil on board

32.5 x 42 cm


Martyn Gregory Gallery, ‘Modern British Painters’, October 1988, Catalogue no. 52, no. 34

This is a study for a painting of the same size of the Great Wall of China exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy, 1938, no.45 and the Royal Academy, London, Exhibition of Works by Sir Gerald Kelly, 1957, no.231.

Born in London of Irish descent, Kelly was educated at Cambridge University, later living and studying art in Paris where he met Degas, Monet, Renoir and Sickert. Whistler was also an early influence as were Cézanne and Gaugin. Kelly was an enthusiastic traveller, visiting amongst other countries China, Spain, America, South Africa and Burma, where he painted some of his most characteristic and charming figure studies. He became a successful society portraitist whose 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, 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 from 1943-45 and President, defeating Augustus John in the election, from 1949-54. Kelly held a number of official positions, such as 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.